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Brain Injury 101

Brain injuries can happen to anybody, of any age, from any walk of life, of any religion or race. A brain injury can be called by many different names (i.e., concussion, shaken baby syndrome, head injury) and the brain can be injured in many ways; however, all brain injuries are classified as either non-traumatic or traumatic.


Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs as a result of external forces such as falls, motor vehicle accidents, and assaults. TBIs fall into two categories. Open head injuries are those in which the skull is crushed or seriously fractured. Open head injuries also happen when the skull is penetrated, as in a gunshot wound. Closed head injuries, in which the skull is not damaged, occur much more often.

Non-Traumatic Brain Injury
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Non-Traumatic Brain Injury occurs as a result of internal forces such as strokes, lack of oxygen, infection, brain tumors, and exposure to toxic substances. The challenges someone with a non-traumatic injury faces can be different, but are often very similar to those faced by someone with a traumatic injury.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
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Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is a term used to include both traumatic and non-traumatic injuries. It is an injury to the brain which is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma and that has occurred after birth. 

Causes of Traumatic Injuries:

Falls, motor vehicle accidents, and gunshot wounds are just a few of the causes of traumatic injuries.
Click here for the full list.

  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Sports injuries/concussions
  • Shaken baby injuries
  • Military actions
  • Child/domestic abuse
  • Workplace injuries
  • Bicycle accidents

Causes of Non-Traumatic Injuries:

Strokes/blood clots, seizures, tumors are just a few of the causes of non-traumatic injuries.
Click here for the full list.

  • Strokes/blood clots
  • Seizures
  • Tumors
  • Encephalitis/Meningitis
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain (i.e.; hypoxia, anoxia)
  • Toxic exposures (i.e.; lead poisoning, substance abuse)
  • Near drowning

Symptoms of brain injury:

No two brain injuries are alike; symptoms will vary by individual and can include changes in cognitive, physical, and emotional abilities. Listed below are some of the symptoms that may be experienced.
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Cognitive Symptoms Physical Symptoms Emotional Symptoms
Memory loss Reduced balance Mood swings
Impaired reasoning/judgment Paralysis Low frustration tolerance
Trouble paying attention Muscle tightness Anxiety
Lack of impulse control Headache Behavioral issues
Difficulty processing information Fatigue Anger
Trouble initiating tasks Seizures Depression
Confusion Difficulty swallowing Inappropriate crying or laughing

Brain Injury Statistics:

National Statistics
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  • In 2013, about 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, and deaths occurred in the United States.
  • The highest rates of hospitalization and death occur in those aged 75 and older.
  •  In 2013, falls were the leading cause of TBI, accounting for 47% of all TBI-related ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States.
  • TBI contributed to the deaths of nearly 56,000 people. TBIs contribute to about 30% of all injury deaths; every day, 153 people in the US die from injuries that include TBI.
The CDC TBI Fact Sheet provides more info and statistics.
The above statistics were taken from: Taylor CA, Bell JM, Breiding MJ, Xu L. Traumatic Brain Injury–Related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths — United States, 2007 and 2013. MMWR Surveill Summ 2017;66 (No. SS-9):1–16. DOI:

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Based on the most current Virginia census estimates, an estimated 262,000 Virginians live with disabilities caused by traumatic brain injury and stroke, most of whom are living in the community.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, every year:

  • 28,000 Virginians sustain a brain injury.
  • TBI is a contributing factor in over 1,400 deaths.
  • TBI results in an estimated 4,000 hospital visits in Virginia.

BIAV has a vast library of information on brain injury, its resulting consequences, and a variety of related topics. To request more information from BIAV, complete our Resource Request Form or contact us at 1-800-444-6443 or 804-355-5748.

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