Trauma Survivors Network - provided by ATS

Survive. Connect. Rebuild.

A Program of the ATS

Traumatic Brain Injury

Each year, approximately 1.4 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI), causing significant – and often lifelong – disability and discomfort. About 50,000 of those 1.4 million die and another 80,000 to 90,000 experience long-term or life-long disabilities as a result. Currently, 5.3 million Americans are living with disabilities stemming from TBI, including problems with cognition, movement abilities, sensation, and emotion.

Traumatic Brain (TBI) occurs when there is sudden damage caused to the brain. TBI may be the result of a penetrating head injury where an object pierces the skull and enters the brain tissue, or a closed head injury, where the object strikes against the head violently but does not penetrate. 


There are varying degrees of injury from mild to severe depending on the damage to the brain. The signs and symptoms of TBI are subtle, and may not become apparent for weeks after the injury. Within a couple of hours to a couple of weeks, 40% of TBI patients experience a symptoms collectively called post concussion syndrome (PCS). A concussion or loss of consciousness is not necessary in order for patients to have these symptoms and many patients with mild TBI suffer from PCS. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, vertigo (a sensation of spinning around or of objects spinning around the patient), memory problems, trouble concentrating, sleeping problems, restlessness, irritability, apathy, depression, and anxiety. These symptoms may last for a few weeks after the head injury.

More severe cases of TBI result in dilation of one or both pupils in the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and/or increased confusing, restlessness and agitation. Children may display the same signs as an adult, so extra vigilance in watching for particular behaviors is necessary. These include lack of appetite, loss of balance, unsteady walking, and loss of new skills such as toilet training. Call your family doctor with any questions.

Signs and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury
See Website: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 


TBI can result in a wide range of outcomes including changes in memory ability, language function, and emotional response. More serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other brain disorders are also associated with TBI. These diseases may develop years after the TBI.

Patients suffering from moderate to severe TBI are advised to undergo rehabilitation therapy. The goal of the rehabilitation is to improve the patient’s ability to function normally in society and make certain environmental modifications to ease this transition. There is a wide variety of therapies available including: physical, occupational, speech/language, physiatry (physical medicine), psychology/psychiatry, and social support therapies. Rehabilitation services should be done in an appropriate and comfortable setting to the patient either at home or a hospital based outpatient center. Severe cases of TBI may result in short or long term disability. Disabled individuals are 4 to 10 times more likely to become a victim of violence, abuse, or neglect. Children with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be a victim of abuse or neglect as a child without a disability.

Victimization of Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury or Other Disabilities
See Website: Centers for Disease Prevention and Control

The total cost of TBI including direct costs to the hospital and patient and indirect costs measured in loss in productivity and disability adjusted life years is over $60 billion in the U.S. in 2000.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Centers for Disease Prevention and Control

Associated pages

Types of TBI
*Groups at Risk
Risk Factors
*Prevention Strategies