Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) may happen from a blow or jolt to the head or an object penetrating the brain. When the brain is injured, the person can experience a change in consciousness that can range from becoming disoriented and confused to slipping into a coma. The person might also have a loss of memory for the time immediately before or after the event that caused the injury.  Not all injuries to the head result in a TBI. 

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can come from a number of things like being struck in the head by an object, striking an object with the head, or being near a blast or explosion. Males outnumber females by at least 2:1 in frequency of TBIs and individuals between 0 to 4, 15 to 19, and the elderly are considered high risk for TBI. Individuals who abuse substances are also considered at increased risk.

When it comes to the severity of TBI, it depends on a few factors:

  • Length of the loss of consciousness
  • Length of memory loss or disorientation
  • How responsive the individual was after the injury

Severity has a ranges from mild (brief disorientation or loss of consciousness) to severe (extended loss of consciousness or a penetrating brain injury like a gunshot wound). Mild TBI is also known as concussion.

TBI can cause a number of difficulties for the person who is injured. This can include physical changes, changes in the person’s behavior, or problems with their thinking skills. After an injury, a number of symptoms might be noted including headaches, dizziness/problems walking, fatigue, irritability, memory problems and problems paying attention. These changes are often related to how severe the brain injury was at the time of injury.

Treatments for TBI focus on the symptoms that cause most problems in everyday life. These can include:

  • Medications;
  • Learning strategies to deal with health, cognitive, and behavioral problems;
  • Rehabilitation therapies (such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy);
  • Assistive devices and technologies.

There is Help Available for Individuals with TBI

Make The Connection has a database of videos of Veterans telling their stories for several issues faced by Veterans and Servicemembers. If you’re hesitant to reach out for help, check out these stories and take advantage of the resources available. Resources will also be listed below. Remember: You’re not alone in this; there is help.

Concussion Coach Mobile App: This app is for Veterans, Servicemembers, and others who have experienced a mild to moderate concussion.  It provides portable tools to assess symptoms and to facilitate use of coping strategies.

The Concussion Coach features the following:

  • A self-assessment tool for measuring symptoms, with feedback and a graph for tracking symptoms over time
  • Symptom relief tools and relaxation exercises for managing problems associated with concussion
  • Planning tools to build resilience
  • Educational materials about concussion and options for treatment by brain injury professionals
  • Immediate access to crisis resources, personal support contacts, or professional healthcare resources

Concussion Coach is intended to support treatment with a healthcare professional by providing portable, convenient tools for the user to assess symptoms and cope with concussion-related problems.  The app can also be used on its own, but is not intended to replace professional diagnosis, medical treatment, or rehabilitation therapies for those who need them.

Fact Sheets


American Legion: Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – which has often been called the “signature wound” of Iraq and Afghanistan – may happen from a blow or jolt to the head or an object penetrating the brain. When the brain is injured, the person can experience a change in consciousness that can range from becoming disoriented and confused to slipping into a coma. The person might also have a loss of memory for the time immediately before or after the event that caused the injury. Not all injuries to the head result in a TBI. 

Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA)
Everyone in the U.S. who sustains a brain injury is diagnosed, treated, and accepted. The BIAA’s mission is to advance awareness, research, treatment, and education and to improve the quality of life for all people affected by brain injury.

  • Concussion/Mild TBI (mTBI)
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines concussion as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.

Brainline: Military Brain Injury
Brain injury has become the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Find out more about who’s affected by TBI and PTSD and what we’re learning about blast injuries.

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion
CDC defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury. Everyone is at risk for a TBI, especially children and older adults.

California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet): Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a severe or moderate trauma to the head, where physical portions of the brain are damaged and functioning is impaired. The trauma can range from mild cases which cause limited functional impairments, such as a concussion or headaches. However, on occasion, the trauma can be much more severe and cause balance problems, mood changes and memory loss. TBI and PTSD have been called the signature wound of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan due to the frequent and powerful blasts experienced in the field; an injury not commonly seen before.

D’Amore Mental Health: The Impact of Traumatic Brain Injuries
Have you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury? Maybe you recently were in a high-impact accident or collision? Perhaps you or someone you know has lingering effects from a head injury or injuries suffered a long time ago?

Disabled American Veterans (DAV): Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Navigating the resources available to veterans can be confusing, but DAV believes no veteran should have to go it alone. Find links to tools and resources that can help ease the process of attaining earned benefits, coping with the lasting effects of service-connected injuries and finding programs and services that meet your specific needs.

Polytrauma/TBI System of Care
VA’s Polytrauma System of Care (PSC) is an integrated network of specialized rehabilitation programs dedicated to serving Veterans and Service Members with both combat and civilian related Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and polytrauma. Services available through PCS include: interdisciplinary evaluation and treatment, development of a comprehensive plan of care, case management, patient and family education and training, psychosocial support, and application of advanced rehabilitation treatments and prosthetic technologies.

Public Health: Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by exposure to explosions is common among Veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. TBI is an injury to the head that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain. If you suspect that you have a TBI, go to your nearest VA health care facility for TBI screening.

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence (TBICoE)
The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence promotes state-of-the-science care from point-of-injury to reintegration for service members, veterans, and their families to prevent and mitigate consequences of mild to severe TBI.

Vet Centers (Readjustment Counseling)
Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional readjustment counseling to eligible Veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components, and their families. Readjustment counseling is offered to make a successful transition from military to civilian life or after a traumatic event experienced in the military. Individual, group, marriage and family counseling is offered in addition to referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services. Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are Veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.