Living with TBI

TBI FAQs

What to Expect When You See a Health Care Professional

While most people are seen in an emergency department or medical office, some people must stay in the hospital overnight. Your health care professional may do a scan of your brain (such as a CT scan) or other tests. Additional tests might be necessary, such as tests of your learning, memory concentration, and problem solving. These tests are called “neuropsychological” or “neurocognitive” tests and can help your health care professional identify the effects of a concussion. Even if the concussion doesn’t show up on these tests, you may still have a concussion.

Your health care professional will send you home with important instructions to follow. Be sure to follow all of your health care professional’s instructions carefully.

If you are taking medications—prescription, over-the-counter medicines, or “natural remedies”—or if you drink alcohol or take illicit drugs, tell your health care professional. Also, tell your health care professional if you are taking blood thinners (anticoagulant drugs), such as Coumadin and aspirin, because they can increase the chance of complications.

What Can I Do to Help Feel Better?

Getting Better: Tips for Adults Getting Better: Tips for Children
Parents and caregivers of children who have had a concussion can help them recover by taking an active role in their recovery:
  • Get plenty of sleep at night, and rest during the day.
  • Avoid activities that are physically demanding (e.g., heavy housecleaning, weightlifting/working-out) or require a lot of concentration (e.g., balancing your checkbook). They can make your symptoms worse and slow your recovery.
  • Avoid activities, such as contact or recreational sports, that could lead to another concussion. (It is best to avoid roller coasters or other high speed rides that can make your symptoms worse or even cause a concussion.)
  • When your health care professional says you are well enough, return to your normal activities gradually, not all at once.
  • Because your ability to react may be slower after a concussion, ask your health care professional when you can safely drive a car, ride a bike, or operate heavy equipment.
  • Talk with your health care professional about when you can return to work. Ask about how you can help your employer understand what has happened to you.
  • Consider talking with your employer about returning to work gradually and about changing your work activities or schedule until you recover (e.g., work half-days).
  • Take only those drugs that your health care professional has approved.
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages until your health care professional says you are well enough. Alcohol and other drugs may slow your recovery and put you at risk of further injury.
  • Write down the things that may be harder than usual for you to remember.
  • If you’re easily distracted, try to do one thing at a time. For example, don’t try to watch TV while fixing dinner.
  • Consult with family members or close friends when making important decisions.
  • Do not neglect your basic needs, such as eating well and getting enough rest.
  • Avoid sustained computer use, including computer/video games early in the recovery process.
  • Some people report that flying in airplanes makes their symptoms worse shortly after a concussion.
  • Having the child get plenty of rest. Keep a regular sleep schedule, including no late nights and no sleepovers.
  • Making sure the child avoids high-risk/ high-speed activities such as riding a bicycle, playing sports, or climbing playground equipment, roller coasters or rides that could result in another bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body. Children should not return to these types of activities until their health care professional says they are well enough.
  • Giving the child only those drugs that are approved by the pediatrician or family physician.
  • Talking with their health care professional about when the child should return to school and other activities and how the parent or caregiver can help the child deal with the challenges that the child may face. For example, your child may need to spend fewer hours at school, rest often, or require more time to take tests.
  • Sharing information about concussion with parents, siblings, teachers, counselors, babysitters, coaches, and others who interact with the child helps them understand what has happened and how to meet the child’s needs.

What are Potential Effects of TBI?

The severity of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may range from “mild” (i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to “severe” (i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury).

A TBI can cause a wide range of functional short- or long-term changes affecting:

  • Thinking (i.e., memory and reasoning);
  • Sensation (i.e., sight and balance);
  • Language (i.e., communication, expression, and understanding); and
  • Emotion (i.e., depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness).

A TBI can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders.

About 75% of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI.

Repeated mild TBIs occurring over an extended period of time can result in cumulative neurological and cognitive deficits. Repeated mild TBIs occurring within a short period of time (i.e., hours, days, or weeks) can be catastrophic or fatal.

A severe TBI may lead to death, or result in an extended period of unconsciousness (coma) or amnesia. Individuals may experience significant changes in thinking and behavior. Moderate-to-severe TBI may also result in a reduced lifespan.

The consequences of severe TBI can affect all aspects of an individual’s life, including relationships with family and friends, the ability to progress at school or work, doing household tasks, driving, or participating in other daily activities.

Tips for Family, Friends, and Caregivers

Recovery Phase Caregiver Tips
The Immediate Aftermath During these first days, ask family and friends to help with chores you are unable to leave the hospital to do:

  • Banking
  • Laundry
  • Preparing meals
  • Taking care of children
Later Days in the Hospital Reach out to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) and the BIA affiliate in your state for information and educational materials.
The Rehabilitation Phase An individual with a brain injury may not be fully aware of the impact of his or her injuries until he or she resumes old routines (personal care, for example). It can be very upsetting for the person when these realizations set in, and behavioral problems can surface.

For more information on tips for families, caregivers, and friends, please visit Brain Injury Association of America’s Brain Injury Guide for Families and Caregivers.