What’s The Difference Between A Concussion And A TBI?

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a medical condition that can affect one’s physical, neurological, and/ or emotional functioning and occurs as a result of experiencing a jolt or blow to one’s head. A concussion is a specific type of TBI, also referred to as a mild TBI, which occurs when one’s brain moves and hits inside one’s skull resulting in bruising. When assessing the severity of a traumatic brain injury, medical health professionals often rely on the Glasgow Coma Scale. According to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, “the Glasgow Coma Scale provides a practical method for assessment of impairment of conscious level in response to defined stimuli.” The Glasgow Coma Scale is a 15-point test that checks an individual’s ability to follow directions (e.g., moving one’s eyes, limbs, etc.). Based on one’s abilities, the individual is then scored from three to fifteen, where lower scores are indicative of more severe injuries. In addition to the Glasgow Coma Scale, evaluating medical professionals also rely on the presence of certain symptoms (e.g., the coherence of the individual’s speech) when delineating the severity of his or her injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an individual with a concussion will score 13 to 15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale.

Symptoms of a Concussion 

The symptoms that could present with a concussion may include, but are not limited to any combination of the following examples, as provided by the Mayfield Brain & Spine Clinic:

  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety 
  • Behavior and/ or mood changes
  • Confusion 
  • Dizziness 
  • Irritability 
  • Headache
  • Feelings of fatigue and/ or exhaustion
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Memory impairment (e.g., trouble remembering new information)
  • Nausea 
  • Trouble with concentration, thinking and/ or attention
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and/ or sounds

Symptoms of a TBI

The symptoms associated with a moderate to severe TBI could include, but are not limited to, any combination of the symptoms of a concussion in addition to the following examples, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Persistent, worsening headache
  • Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
  • Convulsions and/ or seizures
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
  • Continued nausea
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Loss of coordination
  • Combativeness 
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose and/ or ears
  • Slurred speech
  • Profound confusion
  • Agitation 
  • Coma and other disorders of consciousness

The presence of certain symptoms as well as the severity of symptoms generally delineates a moderate to severe TBI from a concussion, or mild TBI.

For Information and Support 

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