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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is explained by the American Association of Neurological Surgery as “a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain that can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.” When exploring what happens in TBI it is helpful to understand how traumatic brain injuries are classified. The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore asserts that head injuries are classified by the following: 

  • Mechanism (close vs. penetrating injury): Penetrating injuries, also known as open head injuries, occur when the skin and the dura (the outer layer of tissue that covers and protects the spinal cord and brain) is penetrated either by piece of one’s skull or a foreign object. A closed head injury occurs when the skin and dura remain intact and are not penetrated. The severity of these injuries is informed by the velocity of impact.
  • Morphology (fractures, focal intracranial injury, and diffuse intracranial injury): skull fractures can occur in the cranial vault (the space that encases and protects the brain) or skull base (bottom part of the skull). Most skull fractures can be seen on an x-ray of the skull. Identifying a skull fracture can be helpful as it is often indicative of the force of the brain injury.
  • Severity (mild, moderate, and severe): Mild traumatic brain injury (concussions) may temporarily affect brain cells, whereas moderate to severe TBIs can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding, and other physical damage to the brain.

The brain is a highly complex organ that controls every process involved in regulating one’s body, including one’s thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, breathing, temperature, hunger, and more. For some, a TBI may only affect the exact location on the brain where the injury occurred, while for others a TBI could also affect surrounding tissues and cause damage to one’s brain in other areas apart from the initial site. TBI symptoms may appear immediately and dissipate rather quickly, while others may present several days or weeks later, and further, persistent symptoms may evolve over time. TBI is a common medical condition that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affects approximately 2.8 million Americans each year. 

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