What is Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is defined as an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external force, resulting in a change in level of consciousness or an anatomical abnormality of the brain, and does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital, degenerative or induced by birth trauma. However, service provision can include individuals with strokes, aneurysms or other acquired brain injury. Every incident of head injury is different. In each individual with TBI the type of injury, the locus of the primary brain damage, the ensuing secondary damage, and the resulting pattern of deficits in the areas of physical, cognitive, psychosocial and/or executive functions, are unique. Factors creating even more diversity are the age of the individual upon sustaining the injury, “who” that individual was prior to injury, the care (if any) received immediately following the injury and subsequent care, and the physical and psychosocial environment surrounding that individual before and after his/her injury.

Regardless of individual differences, a number of underlying facts implicit in the definition of traumatic brain injury constitute a common ground. A traumatic brain injury occurs suddenly in the course of normal development leaving a person significantly changed. Damage to the brain is usually diffuse and widespread (not typically resulting in one kind of deficit), but is not global. And, the brain’s ability to be aware of the changes incurred is frequently impaired. These underlying facts that constitute the basic commonality between individuals with TBI are the very same facts that make these individuals different from those born with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. Although many of these same specific deficits acquired by individuals who have sustained injuries, if viewed in isolation, are also characteristics of individuals born with developmental disabilities, the gestalt is quite different and their needs are different.

If a person acquires a traumatic brain injury before the age of 21 and manifests developmental problems, that individual is considered to be developmentally disabled. Although quite arbitrary, if the injury occurs at the age of 22 or later and results in disability, it is not considered to be a developmental disability.

The CDC reports that Falls are the leading cause of brain injury (28%); Motor vehicle crashes (20%); Struckby/against events (19%) and Assaults (11%).  Men are twice as likely as women to suffer traumatic brain injuries.

For more information on services offered for people with Traumatic Brain Injury, please visit the Traumatic Brain Injury section of this website.