Causes and Effects

Brain injury can happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.  There are two types of brain injury:  traumatic brain injury and acquired brain injury.  Both types of injury can damage specific areas of the brain or cause a diffuse injury, which affects cells throughout the entire brain.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): 
TBI is caused by a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.  A rapid acceleration or deceleration of the head, which can force the brain to move back and forth inside the skull, can also cause TBI.  The stress from these rapid movements pull apart nerve fibers and cause damage to the brain tissue.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI):  ABI is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth and is not hereditary, congenital or degenerative.  ABI takes place at the cellular level within the brain; most symptoms of ABIs are very similar to those of TBIs.               Major causes of brain injury include:

  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Assaults
  • Sports-related concussions
  • Strokes
  • Aneurysms
  • Diseases, such as encephalitis
  • Near drowning
  • Family Violence
  • Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)/inflicted Traumatic Brain Injury

Every brain injury is unique. As a result, there are no universal rules to how a brain injury will affect a particular person. Most people who sustain a brain injury will experience some changes, at least temporarily. Some people may try to hide the changes and some people won’t notice them, but often friends and family will see the changes.  It’s important that the individual with the brain injury, and the people supporting him/her, understand that these changes are a result of damage to the brain; the individual probably isn’t acting or behaving differently on purpose or to be difficult.

Physical, cognitive and emotional changes from a brain injury can occur immediately after an injury; however, it may take some time for the symptoms to appear. Common symptoms of brain injury may include any combination of the following:                

Possible Cognitive Changes:

  • Short-term or long-term memory loss
  • Slowed processing of information
  • Impaired judgment
  • Trouble concentrating or paying attention
  • Difficulty keeping up with conversation; trouble finding words
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Difficulty organizing or problem solving
  • Inability to do more than one thing at a time
  • Difficulty with language or speech production

Possible Physical Changes:

  • Seizures
  • Fatigue, increased need for sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Sensory loss or impairment
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Trouble with balance and dizziness
  • Decreased motor abilities
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Muscle control and balance problems
  • Ringing in the ears

Possible Emotional Changes:

  • Depression, grief over loss of ability, or chemical changes caused by the injury
  • Anxiety, restlessness, agitation
  • Lower tolerance for stress
  • Irritability, frustration, impatience
  • Mood swings
  • Impulsiveness and lack of inhibition
  • Emotional flatness and passivity

The Brain Injury Alliance of Montana supports all people affected by both types of brain injury.