Key facts about traumatic brain injury

By Bronwyn G. Pughe/Madigan TBI Program on March 21, 2013

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts normal brain function. The severity of the TBI is determined at the time of injury. A TBI may be classified as mild, moderate or severe. The most common TBI's among service members and many others are mild. Mild TBIs are also known as concussion.

Anyone who may have experienced a mild TBI should seek immediate evaluation, and those with a positive diagnosis should seek follow-up care from a professional. Additionally, family members, friends and leaders can help the patient to avoid another TBI, which is especially important while the current TBI heals.

While healing, rest. Rest includes physical, social, intellectual and emotional rest. Friends and family members can help create a calm environment. They can watch over the patient and report any worsening of symptoms. They can also point out progress that the patient is making. Command or supervisors can remand the patient to a slow return to work.

Learn about TBI. Best practices indicate that TBI education helps patients to understand their condition, to manage their expectations, and to know that most mild TBIs resolve in days to weeks.

Speak to children about TBI. Children are quite aware when any change takes place in a family. Use age-appropriate and developmentally-appropriate communication techniques. Children will let us know how much information they can handle.

Assess safety. The experience of a TBI reminds family members and friends to assess safety, with an eye toward prevention. For instance, take an inventory of your living space. Tack down loosened carpets. Remove slippery area rugs. Use rubber bath mats. Add nightlights. Buy each child a basket for toys. Make household repairs.

For TBI prevention, avoid unnecessarily risky behaviors. Provide helmets, and wear them for any activity for which helmets are made: skiing, snowboarding, football, bicycling, and so forth. Use medications as directed. Avoid driving when dizzy or tired. Drink responsibly. Stay strong though exercise and adequate nutrition. Have vision checked regularly and model safe behaviors for others.

Finally, join in reducing the stigma surrounding the often invisible injury of TBI. Service members and other patients show great integrity when they care for themselves and others. Even a mild TBI is a serious event. Trauma, whether visible or invisible, requires compassionate care and time to heal. Rethink your own feelings about strength and wellness, and report possible TBI's. Get checked out and encourage others to be evaluated.