Traumatic brain injury is caused by a blow or other traumatic injury to the head or body. The degree of damage can depend on several factors, including the nature of the event and the force of impact.
Injury may include one or more of the following factors:
- Damage to brain cells may be limited to the area directly below the point of impact on the skull.
- A severe blow or jolt can cause multiple points of damage because the brain may move back and forth in the skull.
- A severe rotational or spinning jolt can cause the tearing of cellular structures.
- A blast, as from an explosive device, can cause widespread damage.
- An object penetrating the skull can cause severe, irreparable damage to brain cells, blood vessels and protective tissues around the brain.
- Bleeding in or around the brain, swelling, and blood clots can disrupt the oxygen supply to the brain and cause wider damage.
Common events causing traumatic brain injury include the following:
May 15, 2014
- Falls. Falling out of bed, slipping in the bath, falling down steps, falling from ladders and related falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury overall, particularly in older adults and young children.
- Vehicle-related collisions. Collisions involving cars, motorcycles or bicycles — and pedestrians involved in such accidents — are a common cause of traumatic brain injury.
- Violence. About 20 percent of traumatic brain injuries are caused by violence, such as gunshot wounds, domestic violence or child abuse. Shaken baby syndrome is traumatic brain injury caused by the violent shaking of an infant that damages brain cells.
- Sports injuries. Traumatic brain injuries may be caused by injuries from a number of sports, including soccer, boxing, football, baseball, lacrosse, skateboarding, hockey, and other high-impact or extreme sports, particularly in youth.
Explosive blasts and other combat injuries. Explosive blasts are a common cause of traumatic brain injury in active-duty military personnel. Although the mechanism of damage isn't yet well-understood, many researchers believe that the pressure wave passing through the brain significantly disrupts brain function.
Traumatic brain injury also results from penetrating wounds, severe blows to the head with shrapnel or debris, and falls or bodily collisions with objects following a blast.
- Traumatic brain injury: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tbi/detail_tbi.htm. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/tbi/. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- Goldman L, et al. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- Traumatic brain injury. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/dementia/traumatic-brain-injury-head-trauma-symptoms.asp. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- Evans RW. Concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- Hemphill JC. Epidemiology, classification, and pathophysiology. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- Weinhouse GL. Hypoxic-ischemic brain injury: Evaluation and prognosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- McCrory P, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport: The 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2013;47:250.
- Adams JG. Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- Hemphill JC. Management of acute severe traumatic brain injury. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- What can I do to help prevent traumatic brain injury? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/prevention.html. Accessed Feb. 7, 2014.
- Brown AW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 26, 2014.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.