Information on Head Injury


An acquired brain injury (ABI) is a disruption of normal brain functioning resulting most often from a sudden traumatic event and can induce permanent problems ranging from motor control to attention and memory (Banich, 2004). Although ABI is given great attention from an acute medical perspective far less consideration is given to the longer lasting neuropsychological effects (Cassidy et al., 2004). The problems following an ABI can be crippling to the survivors and their families, but more knowledge may provide insights that can be used to construct workable solutions (Temkin, Corrigan, Dikmen, & Machamer, 2009).


A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an acquired brain injury resulting from acceleration-deceleration forces and/or trauma and can result from open or closed head injuries (Iverson & Lange, 2009). These injuries represent a significant proportion of trauma admissions in Canada as well as in the USA. There are an estimated 120, 000 and 1.5 million TBIs sustained annually in both countries respectively (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, 2006; Mooney, Speed, & Sheppard, 2005; Iverson & Lange, 2009). TBI is an injury which affects all ages but particularly adolescents and elderly are at risk (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, 2006).

TBIs are classified along a spectrum ranging from mild to catastrophic. The Glasgow Coma Scale and durations of unconsciousness and memory loss following the trauma are most often used to categorize the injury (Iverson and Lange, 2009). At the lowest end of the traumatic brain injury scale is where mild is found, the most prevalent classification comprising approximately 70-90% of TBIs ( McKinlay, Grace, Horwood, Fergusson, Ridder, & Macfarlane, 2008).

Problems associated with traumatic brain injury vary depending on the severity but often include: motor impairments/disorders, deficits in balance and experience of dizziness, visual impairments, cranial nerve impairments, headaches, sexual dysfunction, fatigue and sleep disturbance, depression/anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, personality changes, and lack of awareness (Ashman, Gordon, Cantor, & Hibbard, 2006; Iverson and Lange, 2009). The appearance and persistence of these neurological or neuropsychiatric problems follows the gradient of the classification spectrum. Research has indicated that there are significant alterations in cognitive performance as a result of even mild TBI (Kwok, Lee, Leung, & Poon, 2008). The prevalence and consequences of mild TBI creates a clear and obvious need for greater understanding.


Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is formally defined by Kay and colleagues (1993) as a physiological disruption of brain function which has any loss of consciousness, memory, or alteration in mental state at time of accident. The resulting effects of MTBI although rarely life threatening are nonetheless health concerns which may persist for months or longer. They also create a cost for the individual and medical providers alike (Kraus, Schaffer, Ayers, Stenehjem, Shen, & Afifi, 2005).


Ashman, T. A., Gordon, W. A., Cantor, J. B., & Hibbard, M. R. (2006). Neurobehavioral consequences of traumatic brain injury. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 73(7), 999-1005.

Banich, M. T. (2004). Cognitive neuroscience and Neuropsychology (2nd Ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2006). Head injuries in Canada: A decade of change (1994 - 1995 to 2003 - 2004)-Analysis in Brief. Canada: Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Retrieved from June, 2011.

Cassidy, J. D., Carroll, L. J., Peloso, P. M., Borg, J., von Holst, H., Holm, L., et al. (2004). Incidence, risk factors, and prevention of mild traumatic brain injury: Results of the WHO collaborating centre task force on mild traumatic brain injury. Journal of rehabilitation Medicine, 43, 28-60.

Iverson, G. L., & Lange, R. T. (2009). Moderate and severe traumatic brain injury. In M. R. Schoenberg and J. G. Scott (Eds.), The black book of neuropsychology: A syndrome based approach. New York: Springer.

Kay, T., Harrington, D. E., Adams, R., Anderson, T., Berrol, S., Cicerone, K., et al. (1993). Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, Head Injury Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group. Defmition of mild traumatic brain injury. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation,8 (3), 86-87.

Kraus, J., Schaffer, K., Ayers, K., Stenehjem, J., Shen, H., & Afifi, A. A. (2005). Physical complaints, medical service use, and social and employment changes following mild traumatic brain injury: A 6-month longitudinal study. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 20(3), 239-256.

Kwok, F. Y., Lee, T. M. C., Leung, C. H. S., & Poon, W. S. (2008). Changes of cognitive functioning following mild traumatic brain injury over a 3-month period. Brain Injury, 22(10), 740-751.

McKinlay, A., Grace, R. C., Horwood, L. J., Fergusson, D. M., Ridder, E. M., & Macfarlane, M. R. (2008). Prevalence of traumatic brain injury among children, adolescents and young adults: Prospective evidence from a birth cohort. Brain Injury, 22(2), 175-181.

Mooney, G., Speed, J., & Sheppard, S. (2005). Factors related to recovery after mild traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury, 19(12), 975-987.

Temkin, N. R., Corrigan, J. D., Dikmen, S. S., & Machamer, J. (2009). Social functioning after traumatic brain injury. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 24(6), 460-467.