Learn About Traumatic Brain Injury

If you are living with or caring for someone with a traumatic brain injury, you likely have many questions. Shepherd Center has compiled information to help patients and their families learn more about brain injury. While the sources and causes of brain injuries may be diverse, most can be categorized into two primary brain injury types.

The Two Primary Types of Traumatic Brain Injury

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI.

The severity of such an injury may range from mild (i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to severe (i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury). A TBI can result in short- or long-term problems with independent function.

The most common causes of TBI include motor vehicle accidents, falls, gunshot wounds, military attacks or bomb blasts, and violence. 

What is a Non-Traumatic Brain Injury?

A non-TBI can result from an illness, oxygen deprivation, metabolic disorders, aneurysms, cardiac arrest, near-drowning experience, etc. In short, it includes injuries to the brain that are not caused by an external physical force to the head. Other nonviolent circumstances, such as tumors and lead poisoning, can also injure the brain.

Although the effects of a non-TBI are comparable to those associated with a TBI, there are some key differences — namely that they are not caused by an impact to the head. Non-traumatic brain injury also has a direct impact on cells throughout the brain. Because it attacks the cellular structure, a non-traumatic brain injury has the ability to spread to all areas of the brain, while TBI only affects concentrated areas.

The most common causes of non-traumatic brain injury include:

  • Anoxic injury: The brain receives inadequate levels of oxygen, usually following cardiac arrest when there is minimal to no blood reaching the brain.
  • Toxic or metabolic injury: This occurs after coming into contact with unsafe substances (e.g., lead) or the detrimental accumulation of chemicals manufactured within the body (e.g., kidney failure).
  • Encephalitis: This is caused by an infection of the brain.
  • Virus: This is the most common cause of non-TBI.
  • Brain tumors: Chemotherapy and radiation can be used to diffuse this type of brain injury.
  • Meningitis
  • Stroke
  • Drug abuse
  • Hydrocephalus

Traumatic Brain Injury Prevention

While it’s not always possible to prevent accidents that lead to traumatic brain injury, you can take steps to reduce your risk of brain injury. Certain behaviors are more likely to lead to types of brain trauma, such as not wearing a seat belt, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and not wearing a helmet when participating in sports or recreational activities. 

Traumatic Brain Injury Resources

Do you have a traumatic brain injury or are you caring for someone with a traumatic brain injury? 

Visit MyShepherdConnection.org to access brain injury-related educational materials for patients, families and caregivers. Materials include: 

Additional Brain Injury Resources:

Need help identifying the right brain injury rehabilitation center? Discover if Shepherd Center is right for you or your loved one.