What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain that occurs as a result of a physical impact to the head or to the body.

In a moderate or severe TBI, the entire brain can be affected by swelling and injury. A TBI of this nature can dramatically change the lives of both the person involved and the people around them.

Mild TBI is also known as concussion and can be a result of the brain suddenly moving back and forth within the skull-like in a whiplash injury.1 The head rotating sideways quickly, for example following a tackle on the rugby field can also lead to a concussion or mild TBI. Symptoms of concussion will generally resolve quite quickly for the majority of people, however for 1 in 5 people symptoms may last longer.2

Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury

A TBI can be caused by a number of things. The most common causes of a TBI include3:

  • Falls
  • Motor Vehicle Crashes
  • Sports
  • Assault
  • Workplace Accidents

Spectrum of Severity

A TBI can range in severity from mild, to moderate or severe. As such the symptoms can be quite mild and quickly resolving, or they can be debilitating and life changing, potentially leaving a person in a vegetative state.

The types of symptoms that result from a TBI also range in severity and include: altered thinking such as poor concentration through to vegetative states, varying degrees of lack of emotional control, lack of self-awareness, poor mental health, disrupted balance and sleep disturbances.

The severity of a TBI is often clinically assessed using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GSC) which uses motor, verbal and eye responses to assess the severity of injury. The GSC ranges from 3 – 15 with 3 being a very severe TBI and 15 the normal level a normal person would score.4 A mild TBI generally is defined as a GCS of 13-15.

Some of the factors affecting the severity of Traumatic Brain Injury include:

  • If there is history of previous TBI
  • Time before receiving medical treatment
  • The way the injury is managed or treated
  • If the TBI is open (meaning the skull and brain have been penetrated) or closed (meaning the skull has not been opened and exposed to air)
  • If consciousness was lost, and if so for how long
  • The area on the head that was impacted


Symptoms of TBI may include:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Neuropsychological Function
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Irritability
  • Vestibular System Function
  • Exercise Intolerance
  • Personailty Changes
  • Social Difficulties
  • Aphasia (language or speech impairment)
  • Inability to mobilise, communicate, eat or speak
  • Vegetative State
  • Long term Coma
  • Brain Death

Each year it is estimated that 200,000 Australian’s will suffer a TBI5, with 20,000 hospitalised following their injury, indicating a moderate to severe TBI.6

Disclaimer: This website does not offer medical advice for individuals. If you have suffered a TBI, seek medical attention.



  1. Galgano M, Toshkezi G, Qiu X, Russell T, Chin L, Zhao LR. Traumatic Brain Injury: Current Treatment Strategies and Future Endeavors. Cell Transplant. 2017;26(7):1118-1130. doi:10.1177/0963689717714102
  2. Carroll L, Cassidy JD, Peloso P, et al. Prognosis for mild traumatic brain injury: results of the WHO Collaborating Centre Task Force on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. J Rehabil Med 2004;43(Suppl):84–105. Search PubMed
  3. Jagnoor J, Cameron ID. Traumatic brain injury–support for injured people and their carers. Aust Fam Physician. 2014 Nov;43(11):758-63. PMID: 25393460.
  4. https://www.glasgowcomascale.org/
  5. Feigin, V.L., et al., Lancet Neurol, 2013. 12(1): p. 53-64.
  6. Access Economics: A Report to the Victorian Neurotrauma Initiative, 2009.