4 Types of Brain Injuries and 3 Levels of Severity

“What does TBI mean?” It’s a question that perhaps not many have to ask, but understanding what the term means and its lasting impact on the lives of those affected is essential.  

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are often pictured as severe, permanent injuries with life-altering consequences. And though that certainly describes some TBIs, many people don’t realize that brain injuries can range in severity. 

From mild concussions to extensive injuries that cause lasting and irreparable damage, here’s what you need to know about traumatic brain injury categories and their levels of severity.

Four Common Types of Brain Injuries

Your brain acts as the control center of your entire body. But even though it’s well-protected by your skull, it can still be severely harmed when placed under enough physical trauma. 

With that said, some of the major causes of brain injuries include events such as:

Some of these are more common than others. For example, almost half of TBI hospitalizations are the result of falls

In any case, these scenarios and circumstances often lead to the following four types of TBIs:

1. Concussions

A concussion happens when your brain is subjected to sudden force, whether that means a blow from the outside or your brain hitting the inside of your skull due to a sudden motion. 

These are some of the most common causes of concussions:

  • Sports injuries
  • Falls
  • Assaults
  • Auto accidents

Concussions are generally mild, but that doesn’t mean they don’t cause significant problems before they heal. You may feel disoriented, have trouble concentrating, or suffer from memory loss after suffering a concussion. 

Most concussions heal without incident, but if you have one, it’s extremely important to avoid getting another soon after. Sustaining a second head injury before an existing one heals can cause second-impact syndrome, which often leads to fatal brain swelling.

2. Diffuse Axonal Injuries

Diffuse axonal injuries, like concussions, happen when your brain suddenly moves inside your skull. In these cases, though, the shift is significant enough that it causes the long connecting fibers in your brain (called axons) to tear, damaging many parts of your brain. It may even put you into a coma. 

If the injury is mild enough, you may make a full recovery. However, severe diffuse axonal injuries may cause death or otherwise lead to lifelong, severe impairment.

3. Penetrating Brain Injuries

A penetrating brain injury occurs when something hits your skull with enough force to puncture it and reach your brain. Gunshot wounds, stabbings, and even falling on a very sharp object can cause penetrating brain injuries.

As you might imagine, a penetrating brain injury can lead to serious complications. 

Depending on how severe the injury is and the part of the brain it affects, a penetrating brain injury can cause issues such as:

  • Brain swelling
  • Bleeding in the brain (and loss of oxygen to the brain as a result)
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Death

In some cases, you may be able to recover from a penetrating brain injury, but your ability to do so largely depends on the part of your brain that is damaged and how serious that damage is.

4. Anoxic Brain Injuries

Your brain needs oxygen to function. After four minutes without oxygen, your brain cells begin to die, an occurrence known as an anoxic brain injury. Any event that prevents oxygen from getting to your brain can cause such an injury. 

Coming close to drowning but surviving, for instance, is a common cause. Serious damage to your blood vessels (especially your carotid arteries) may also prevent your brain from getting enough oxygen and ultimately cause an injury.

Levels of Traumatic Brain Injury

Doctors use the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to diagnose TBI levels of severity in three ways: mild, moderate, and severe. 

If you suspect you have a brain injury, you’ll need a doctor to evaluate you to properly determine its severity. That said, you can get an idea of how severe your injury is based on the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Mild TBI

In many cases, a mild TBI will not cause you to lose consciousness. But if it does, you’ll typically only be out for 30 minutes or less. 

In either case, you might notice symptoms such as:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue/sleepiness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Issues with balance
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Ear ringing
  • Vision issues
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of memory up to 24 hours

Even though mild ones are the least dire out of the three types of TBIs, it’s still important to seek medical attention. More severe brain injuries can include a range of these symptoms, and you may not immediately notice the more severe signs.

Moderate TBI

As mentioned, a moderate TBI will include some of the symptoms of a mild TBI. However,  you’re at greater risk for lasting problems, which makes it especially important to seek medical help immediately. 

The more serious symptoms to be aware of at this level include the following:

  • Seizures
  • Weakness/numbness in your limbs
  • Inability to wake from sleep
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unusually large pupils
  • Worsening or persistent headaches
  • Severe agitation or confusion
  • Coordination issues
  • Memory loss that ranges from 24 hours to a week

Immediately following an accident that leads to a moderate TBI, you may be unconscious for up to 24 hours.

Severe TBI

A severe TBI can be hard to determine at first, as it will usually cause similar symptoms to mild or moderate TBIs. However, these symptoms will often be more severe, and you might be unconscious for more than 24 hours after the initial injury. You also might suffer from memory loss for longer than a week. 

Of the 3 types of TBIs, severe TBIs put you at the highest risk of lasting symptoms, making it especially important to get medical help as soon as you can.

Maximizing Your Chances of Recovery From a TBI

Regardless of the severity of your injury, you can optimize your chances of recovering from a TBI by seeking medical treatment as soon as possible after it occurs. Likewise, following your doctor’s instructions for recovery may also make a major difference. Even if you cannot fully recover from a TBI, you can minimize its effect on your life by getting the medical care you need.

Contact Our Gainesville Personal Injury Law Firm in North Central Florida

If you need legal assistance, contact the Gainesville personal injury lawyers at Allen Law Firm at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We have three convenient locations in North Central Florida:

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Gainesville office
2550 SW 76th St #150
Gainesville, FL 32608
(877) 255-3652

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Downtown Gainesville
621 W University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
(866) 928-6292

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Ocala Office
112 S Pine Ave
Ocala, FL 34471
(352) 351-3258