Signs of a Brain Injury

With all the publicity about NFL, high school and even junior high football players working with traumatic brain injuries, now is a good time to read about what these injuries are, the symptoms, causes and how to prevent them. Traumatic brain injuries happen when an external spontaneous force produces brain dysfunction from a jolt or severe blow to the head. You will definitely have a brain injury if a bullet or splintered piece of skull enters the brain.

Mild traumatic brain injuries may cause temporary dysfunction of brain cells, serious brain injuries cause bruising and torn tissues plus bleeding that may lead to death.


There are symptoms that appear immediately after a traumatic event, but other symptoms may not appear for days or weeks. You may notice physical or psychological effects or there may be no symptoms at all.

Mild brain trauma can be:

Loss of consciousness for a brief time,

No loss of consciousness but a dazed and confused demeanor,

Memory problems,


Dizziness and or loss of balance,


Blurred vision, ringing in the ears and a bad taste in the mouth,

Sensitive to light is a symptom,

Those with mild brain trauma are usually depressed or anxious, drowsy, and have difficulty sleeping

They may also sleep more than usual.

Severe or even moderate brain injuries can include:

Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours,


Combativeness or agitation, Slurred speech

Inability to wake up,

Numbness and weakness in fingers and toes,

Loss of coordination,

Headaches or headaches that gradually get worse,

Vomiting and or nausea,


Dilation of the pupils,

Clear fluids running from the ears or nose.

Watch your child for traumatic brain injuries if they have a change in eating habits, persistently cry, are very irritable, do not pay attention, change their sleep habits, and are sad or depressed. You may also notice the erratic or non-movement of the eyes, bruises or bumps on the head and loss of interest in toys or activities.


It can be obvious what has caused a traumatic brain injury but the degree of damage depends on several facts. This include the nature of the blow and the force of the impact.

Testing and examination will determine the following damage:

  • Brain cell damage may be only to the area directly below the point of impact.
  • Severe blows or jolts can cause multiple points of damage. The brain moves back and forth in the skull causing more injury.
  • Severe rotational or a spinning jolts can cause the tearing of cellular structures.
  • An explosive device causes widespread damage.
  • An object penetrating the skull will cause irreparable damage to cells, vessels and protective tissues.
  • Bleeding around the brain, swelling and clots can disrupt oxygen supplies and cause more damage.  

Slipping in the bath, falling down stairs, falling out of bed and ladders are the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries. Vehicle related collisions are common causes of brain injuries. Studies state that 10% of traumatic brain damage is due to gunshot wounds, domestic violence and child abuse. Shaken baby syndrome is a brain injury caused by violent shaking of an infant. Sports injuries from soccer, boxing, football, skateboarding, hockey and other high impact sorts cause brain injuries. Explosives and combat injuries are definite causes of brain injuries. In an explosion, the pressure wave passing through the brain disrupts brain functions.


Brain injuries can result in permanent changes in a persons state of consciousness, responsiveness, and awareness. Stages of awareness or consciousness are:

Comas mean that the patient is totally unaware of anything around them. They are unable to respond to stimulus. Comas result from damage to all parts of the brain. A person can emerge from a coma, enter a vegetative state, or pass away.

The vegetative state comes from widespread damage to the brain. The patient is unaware of his or her surroundings and he may open his eyes, make sounds and respond to reflexes. A vegetative state can become permanent.

A minimally conscious state is still highly damaging but there is some sense of self-awareness and what is around you. It is usually a transitional state from a coma or vegetative state to recovery.

Locked in syndrome is being totally aware of the environment but patients are not able to speak or even move. They can often communicate with eye movements. Usually this state comes from damage to the lower bran and brainstem. This is not a state that occurs after brain trauma.

Those with traumatic brain injuries may have seizures during the first week. These serious seizures are called post-traumatic epilepsy and seizures usually dissipate after a bit.

Fluid buildup is an issue and causes increased pressure in the brain and additional injury. Skull fractures and penetrating wounds tear the layers of protective tissues away from the brain and allow bacteria to enter causing infections. If not treated, meningitis may spread to the rest of the nervous system. Blood vessel damage can be the result of a stroke, blood clots or blows to the head.

Nerve damage is a definite complication of brain injuries. Watch for paralysis of facial muscles, double vision, and loss of smell, loss of vision and loss of facial sensations. You may also experience swallowing problems with brain nerve damage.

There is a definite coalition between brain injuries and behavior and emotional changes. Those who have experienced brain injuries repeatedly may lose self-control, have a lack of awareness of what they can do, exhibit risky behavior and have an inaccurate self-image. There is difficulty in social situations and often verbal or physical outbursts.

Emotional challenges can include depression, anxiety, mood swings and high irritability. There may be a lack of empathy for others plus anger outbursts. Changes in self-esteem is a symptom of brain damage and insomnia often follows repeated blows to the head.


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