Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Learn more about traumatic brain injury symptoms and discover how to get treatment for a TBI near you here.

Table of Contents

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious medical condition. TBI can result from a variety of causes, including:

  • Sports injuries
  • Falls
  • Car accidents
  • Military combat

How Does a TBI Happen?

TBI occurs when there is a sudden trauma or impact to the head that causes damage to the brain. Traumatic brain injury symptoms and severity can range from mild to severe. The effects of TBI can be long-lasting and life-changing.1

Complexity of TBI

TBI is a complex condition that can affect individuals physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Traumatic brain injury requires a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment and management.

If you or someone you love has experienced a head injury, it is important to understand traumatic brain injury symptoms, as well as the causes, diagnosis, and treatment options available.

What Are the Most Common Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms?

The most common traumatic brain injury symptoms can vary depending on the severity and location of the injury. 

These symptoms include:2
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness and loss of balance
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Blurred vision or ringing in the ears
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Memory loss or difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes, including irritability and depression
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive fatigue
  • Seizures or convulsions

It is important to note that not all symptoms may appear immediately after the injury. Some symptoms may not manifest until days or weeks after the injury. 


It is also possible for individuals to experience a combination of these symptoms, with some more severe than others. 

How to Recognize Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be difficult to recognize, especially in cases where the injury is mild or there are no visible signs of trauma. However, some signs and symptoms can indicate the presence of TBI.

Physical Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Some physical traumatic brain injury symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of consciousness

Cognitive Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Some cognitive TBI symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Slowed thinking

Behavioral and Emotional Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Common behavioral symptoms include:

  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in social behavior

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms Vary

Traumatic brain injury symptoms can vary widely depending on the severity and location of the injury. Not all symptoms may appear immediately after the injury. 

Some symptoms may be more difficult to recognize in young children or individuals with preexisting cognitive or neurological conditions. 

Are there Different Levels of Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries are generally classified into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. The severity of the injury often correlates with the intensity and duration of the symptoms, as well as the prognosis for recovery.

Mild TBI (Concussion)

Mild TBIs are the most common. They usually result in temporary disruptions in brain function. Symptoms may include:

  • Brief loss of consciousness (a few seconds to a few minutes)
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Memory problems or difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes, such as irritability or sadness

Most people recover from mild TBIs within a few weeks to a few months. Some people may experience lingering symptoms known as post-concussion syndrome.

Moderate TBI

Moderate TBIs are more severe than mild TBIs. They often involve a longer loss of consciousness, lasting from a few minutes to several hours. 


Symptoms may be similar to those of mild TBIs but more intense and longer-lasting, and can also include:

  • Persistent headache or worsening headache
  • Seizures
  • Pupil dilation in one or both eyes
  • Weakness or numbness in the limbs
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination

Recovery from moderate TBIs can take longer than recovery from mild TBIs. Some individuals may experience long-term or permanent impairments.

Severe TBI

Severe TBIs are the most serious and life-threatening. They often involve an extended period of unconsciousness or coma. 


Symptoms may include those of moderate TBIs, as well as:

  • Profound confusion or agitation
  • Coma or unresponsiveness
  • Respiratory difficulties or cessation of breathing
  • Uncontrolled vomiting

Long-Term Impairments of Severe TBIs

Severe TBIs can result in significant long-term impairments or disabilities. These include: 

  • Cognitive deficits
  • Communication difficulties
  • Motor function problems

Recovery can be a long, challenging process. It may require extensive rehabilitation and support.

What are the Long-Term Effects of TBI?

The long-term effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be profound and life-changing. 

Below are some of the potential long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries.

Cognitive and Communication Impairments

Traumatic brain injuries can result in long-term problems with:

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication skills

Behavioral and Emotional Changes

A traumatic brain injury can lead to: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Other behavioral and emotional changes

Physical Changes

A traumatic brain injury can lead to long-term physical changes. These may include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis


Traumatic brain injuries can increase the risk of seizures. This can have long-term effects on cognitive and physical function.

Sensory Deficits

A traumatic brain injury can result in long-term sensory deficits, such as hearing or vision loss.

Increased Risk of Other Health Problems

Individuals with a traumatic brain injury may be at increased risk of developing other health problems. These may include:

  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Other neurological conditions

How Can the Long-Term Effects of TBI Impact a Person’s Quality of Life?

The effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have a significant long-term impact on a person’s quality of life. These range from physical to cognitive, emotional, and behavioral impacts. 

Impact on Daily Activities

Traumatic brain injury symptoms can impact a person’s ability to perform daily activities. The cognitive, physical, and sensory deficits that can result from TBI can make it difficult to perform activities of daily living. 


These include: 

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Personal grooming

Communication Issues

Problems with communication skills can result from TBI as well. This can make it difficult to maintain relationships with family, friends, and caregivers.

Cognitive and Physical Deficits

Long-term cognitive and physical deficits are possible for sufferers of traumatic brain injury symptoms. This may make it difficult to work, which can result in financial instability.

Behavioral and Emotional Changes

The behavioral and emotional changes that can result from TBI can make it difficult to maintain social relationships. These changes can lead to social isolation and loneliness.

Physical Changes

TBI can result in long-term physical changes. These changes may include chronic pain and physical limitations. This can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.

Psychological Distress

Emotional and psychological distress, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also possible impacts of TBI.

Preventive Measures to Reduce the Risk of TBI

It is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI). But, there are preventive measures that individuals can take to reduce the likelihood of sustaining a TBI or lessen the severity of its symptoms.

Wear Protective Gear

When engaging in sports or recreational activities, wearing appropriate helmets and protective gear can significantly reduce the risk of head injuries. 


This includes:3

  • Cycling
  • Skateboarding
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Contact sports like football, hockey, and rugby

Use Seat Belts and Child Safety Seats

Always wear a seat belt when driving or riding in a vehicle. Ensure that children are appropriately secured in child safety seats or booster seats. This can help prevent TBIs resulting from motor vehicle accidents.

Fall Prevention

Take precautions to prevent falls, particularly for older adults and young children. Some precautions include:

  • Installing handrails
  • Using non-slip mats in the bathroom
  • Ensuring that living spaces are well-lit and free of clutter

For older adults, engaging in regular exercise to improve strength and balance can also reduce the risk of falls.

Avoid Alcohol and Drug Use

Alcohol and drug use can impair judgment and coordination. This increases the risk of accidents that may lead to a TBI. Avoiding these substances can lower the likelihood of sustaining head injuries.

Practice Safe Sports Techniques

Proper training for sports activities and following safety guidelines can help reduce the risk of head injuries. Coaches and trainers should enforce safety rules and teach athletes to use proper techniques during play.

Implement Workplace Safety Measures

Employers should provide appropriate protective equipment and enforce safety regulations to minimize the risk of head injuries in the workplace, particularly in industries with a higher risk of accidents.

Always Seek Medical Attention

While these preventive measures can help reduce the likelihood of a TBI or minimize its severity, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a head injury. Early treatment can improve outcomes and reduce the severity of symptoms.

Common Misconceptions About TBI

There are several misconceptions about traumatic brain injury (TBI) symptoms that can lead to misunderstandings or even delayed diagnosis and treatment. 


Here are some common misconceptions and ways to address them:

You Must Lose Consciousness to Have a TBI

A person can still experience a TBI without losing consciousness. Mild TBIs, or concussions, may not involve a loss of consciousness but can still cause various symptoms and require medical attention.

Mild TBIs Are Not Serious and Don't Need Medical Attention

Even mild TBIs should be taken seriously. While most people recover from mild TBIs without lasting effects, some may develop post-concussion syndrome or experience lingering symptoms.

It’s essential to seek medical attention to rule out any complications and receive appropriate guidance on recovery.

Helmets Can Completely Prevent TBIs

Helmets can significantly reduce the risk of TBIs, but they do not offer complete protection. It’s still crucial to follow safety guidelines and take precautions during sports and recreational activities.

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms Appear Immediately After the Injury

Some traumatic brain injury symptoms may not become apparent until hours or even days after the injury. 

It’s essential to monitor for symptoms and seek medical attention if any arise, even if they don’t appear immediately.

Once You've Recovered from a TBI, You're Not at Risk for Further Complications

Sustaining multiple TBIs, even if they are mild, can increase the risk of long-term complications or cumulative damage. 

It’s essential to take precautions to avoid further head injuries and seek medical attention if any new symptoms arise.

People with TBIs Will Always Have Visible Physical Symptoms

Many traumatic brain injury symptoms are cognitive or emotional. They may not be immediately apparent. 

Family members, friends, and healthcare providers should be aware of the potential for subtle changes in:

  • Memory
  • Concentration
  • Mood
  • Behavior

Awareness is Crucial

To address these misconceptions, raising awareness about the realities of traumatic brain injury symptoms and promoting education on the topic is important. 

Encourage open communication with healthcare providers, support networks, and educators to ensure that individuals with TBIs receive proper diagnosis, treatment, and care.

How is a Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed?

Healthcare professionals diagnose traumatic brain injury using a combination of assessments. These include physical examination, medical history, and diagnostic tests.

Physical Examination

A team of healthcare professionals will conduct a physical examination to assess the individual’s neurological function. 


These include tests of a person’s:

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Reflexes
  • Sensation

Collection of Medical History

The individual’s medical history is also gathered at this time. This includes information about the individual’s medical history, including any previous head injuries or neurological conditions. Any current symptoms and changes in behavior or cognitive function are also assessed.

Diagnostic Imaging and Test

Diagnostic imaging tests such as CT scans or MRIs can help identify the presence and location of any structural damage or bleeding in the brain. This allows doctors to pinpoint their treatment.

Other Diagnostics and Testing

Other diagnostic tests including neuropsychological testing or other types of tests to assess the individual’s overall health and function may be ordered as well.

Common Treatments for Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

A variety of treatments can help an individual recover from traumatic brain injury and may reduce or eliminate certain traumatic brain injury symptoms. The type of treatment, as well as the duration and setting, depend on the severity and location of the injury.

Immediate Medical Care

Emergency care is crucial for stabilizing the patient’s condition and minimizing further damage to the brain. This may include:4
  • Ensuring proper oxygen supply
  • Maintaining blood flow,
  • Preventing additional injuries


Various medications may be administered to manage symptoms and reduce complications. These can include:

  • Diuretics to reduce brain swelling
  • Anti-seizure drugs to prevent seizures
  • Sedatives to manage agitation or restlessness


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove blood clots or repair skull fractures. This can help relieve pressure on the brain and reduce the risk of further damage.


Following the acute phase of treatment, rehabilitation is crucial. Rehab can help the individual regain lost function and learn new ways to compensate for any permanent disabilities. 

This may involve

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Neuropsychological therapy

Supportive Care

Providing appropriate support, both emotionally and practically, is essential for the patient’s recovery. This can involve counseling, support groups, and assistance with daily tasks.

It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most effective treatment plan for an individual with a traumatic brain injury.

How J. Flowers Health Can Help

J. Flowers Health Institute is a specialized facility that focuses on helping all patients achieve wellness, including individuals with traumatic brain injury symptoms. 

Through thorough evaluations, personalized treatment plans, and support and education, our network of specialists and medical professionals are here to help if you or your loved one are suffering from traumatic brain injury symptoms. 

Reach out to us today to learn more.