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About Brain Injury


The brain controls everything we do, say, think and feel. It controls the very functions that keep us alive: breathing, circulation, digestion, hormones and the immune system. It is through the brain that we experience emotion and express ourselves. Because the consistency of the adult brain tissue is like Jell-O and the consistency of a child’s brain tissue is like pudding, the brain is very vulnerable to injury. The brain floats in a liquid called cerebrospinal fluid and is encased by the skull, which has very rough areas on the inside surface that have the potential to damage the brain.

When the brain is injured, a person’s abilities and bodily functions may change. In general, the more serious the injury, the more significant and permanent changes are likely to be. Some changes caused by brain injury may be subtle but have a major impact on the way a person lives their life.

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.

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


Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the chances that you or your family members will have a brain injury.

Motor Vehicles

  • Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle
  • Always buckle your child into a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt (according to the child’s height, weight, and age) in the car
  • Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Never use handheld mobile devices while driving

Recreational Safety

  • Keeping firearms stored unloaded in a locked cabinet or safe. Store bullets in a separate secured location.
  • Wear a helmet and make sure your children wear helmets when:
    • Riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle
    • Playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or boxing
    • Using in-line skates or riding a skateboard
    • Batting and running bases in baseball or softball
    • Riding a horse
    • Skiing or snowboarding

Avoid Falls by

  • Making sure the surface on your child’s playground is made of shock-absorbing material, such as hardwood, mulch, and sand.
  • Using a step stool with a grab bar to reach objects on high shelves
  • Installing handrails on stairways
  • Installing window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows
  • Using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when young children are around
  • Removing tripping hazards such as small area rugs and loose electrical cords
  • Using non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors
  • Putting grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower
  • Maintaining a regular exercise program to improve strength, balance, and coordination
  • Seeing an eye doctor regularly for a vision check to help lower the risk of falling

Major Causes of Brain Injury

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

Common Symptoms of 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 these changes and some people won’t notice them, but often friends and family will see the difference. It’s important that the individual with the brain injury, and the people supporting him/her, understand that these alterations 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.

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

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

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

Life After Brain Injury

Keep Your Head Up!

The good news is that with rehabilitation and participation in daily activities, there can be improvement. While damage to brain cells is permanent, healthy cells can compensate. Services and support systems available throughout Montana, such as the Brain Injury Alliance, are here to help along your recovery.

So, What Now?

Many survivors have found encouragement in support groups in their area, as well as other available resources from the BIAMT. Life after brain injury can be difficult, but there are other people who understand what you are going through.

We can help.