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War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) may occur anytime the head is shaken or hit, causing "concussion" or "closed head injury". Unfortunately, TBI has become a "signature wound" of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For Veterans, TBI may occur from any event that impacts the head, such as blast exposures, motor vehicle crashes, or falls. TBIs also may be caused by flying debris or being physically thrown against the ground or other hard surface. The severity of a TBI may range from mild to moderate to severe. Veterans with more severe TBIs are at greater risk for long term complications. The severity of a TBI is defined by looking at three factors at the time of the head injury:

  • Glasgow Coma Scores
  • Length of loss of consciousness
  • Length of post-traumatic amnesia


Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the TBI. Mild TBI(mTBI) symptoms may include:

  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Loss of memory immediately before or after the injury
  • Change in mental state at the time of the accident
  • Visual problems


Many Veterans who sustain mild TBIs recover completely. However, in some instances, Veterans may develop:

  • Concentration/attention/memory difficulties
  • Headaches or ringing in the ears
  • Easily confused or overwhelmed
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Impaired decision making or problem solving
  • Easily angered or irritated


Veterans who sustain more severe TBIs may be at risk for:

  • Long term neurological deficits including motor and sensory difficulties
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Speech difficulties
  • Balance problems
  • Mood difficulties


In some instances, TBI symptoms may not be obvious right away. The symptoms may be vague and may differ from person to person. It is important to seek treatment early because TBI symptoms may cause chronic problems if left untreated.