Brain Injury Symptoms

Brain Injury can occur from simple actions that can occur during the course
of a day. Most wouldn't think a fall or a simple bump on the head could
create an injury. However, repeated falls, bumps, or strikes can put individuals
at a higher risk that can show up decades later. Our risk for damage is eight
times after having a first impact.  

Most injuries that call for an Emergency Room Visit are examined, treated and released. More severe symptoms might not show up for weeks, even when there seems to be a lack of evidence to support the injury.  Studies show that the X-rays and MRI exams do not always show results from an impact. Sometimes the need to be treated might not show up for 24 hours to weeks later after an injury is sustained.  When you start to question that something is not right, it is probably a good signal to follow up with an examination.  


Below are common symptoms of Acquired Brain Injury to become aware of, separated into the areas medically termed as being traumatic or non-traumatic incidences. All TBI incidences are actually Acquired Brain Injuries. ABI is an umbrella term for brain injury acquired after birth.


 Acquired Brain Injury  l  Mild Brain Injury  l  Moderate Brain Injury  l Severe Brain Injury 

IThere are various reasons for brain injury to occur. This page lists the symptoms and is intended as a guide to identify and prompt questions. . Seek medical advice for diagnosis. 

At-Risk Groups Include

Ages 0-4   •. Youth 15-24  •  Over 60  •  Males of any age

Acquired  Brain Injury Symptoms

All brain injury acquired after birth that is not hereditary, congenital, or degenerative is considered Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

It includes TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury, and is much more comprehensive because it also includes systemic pressure on the brain and can occur at a cellular level.  It is important to make the distinction as many areas of damage to the brain can be more impactful than TBI. In order to bring attention to this vital fact and brain injury in general,  America needs to begin stating it in literature and education as other parts of the world do. Otherwise, it remains a silent epidemic.

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Impacts that effect the head, or cause the brain to move within the skull can become damaged by the bony ridges that reside within the skull structure. That is why falls are the number one reason for brain injury.  Some injuries can cause damage to a specific area and localize the injury or be widespread and diffused to reach many areas of the brain. The terms mild, moderate, and severe relate to the effect on brain function.


Movement within the skull, even when the head is not hit, can be quite damaging. If you have had a fall, bumped your head, had an incidence where your head or upper body slipped or were stricken by an individual or object, car accident (whiplash), sports injuries (concussion), or violent assault, your brain could have moved into the skull in damaging ways.


 If you are looking at this page, it might be safe to consider that something isn't right. Notice where your symptoms fall into the categories and seek medical help to better comprehend your condition or suspicion. 

Brain injury is not easily detected and it is a unique experience for every individual, including those trying to help


Mild Injury Symptoms

  • Loss of Consciousness 

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Poor attention/concentration

  • Problems with speech

  • Dizziness or loss of balance

  • Visual disturbances 

  • Seizures

  • Memory or concentration loss

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Irritability-emotional disturbances

  • Feelings of depression or anxiousness

  • Loss of smell

  • Bad taste in the mouth

  • Light or sound sensitivity

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Confusion

  • Thinking slows down

  • Getting lost

Often misdiagnosed, a mild injury can heal in one area or aspect and not in others. About 15% of MILD injuries are often more significant with symptoms that can last from 3 months to much longer. 


Moderate Injury Symptoms

Can include all the symptoms of Mild Injury and:​

  • Loss of Consciousness - 15 minutes to hours

  • Persistent Headaches

  • Vomiting and/or worsening Nausea

  • Dilation of one or more pupils

  • Seizures

  • Convulsions

  • Inability to wake up

  • Loss of Coordination

  • Weakness

  • Numbness

  • Fluid drainage from eyes or ears

  • Slurred speech

  • Behavior changes - agitation or combativeness

  • Exessive confusion

  • Coma

  • Changes in sleep habits

  • Loss of interest

The loss of consciousness that lasts longer than 24 hours can put an individual at risk for an amnesiac loss and induce a coma. 

Symptoms of a moderate injury can be more defined and obvious in the lack of normal function. Changes range from physical to cognitive and behavioral. Perception is often impaired. 


Severe Injury Symptoms

Can include all the symptoms of Moderate Injury and:​

  • Excessive loss of Consciousness -Prolonged Coma

  • Severe Headaches

  • Paralysis

  • Inability to process information

  • Speech impairments

  • Sleep Disorders

  • Minimally Responsive

  • Vegetative State

  • Signs of injury on neuroimaging tests

  • Locked In Syndrome

  • Brain Death

The loss of consciousness that lasts longer than 24 hours can put an individual at risk for an amnesiac loss and induce a coma. 

Symptoms of a moderate injury can be more defined and obvious in the lack of normal function. Changes range from physical to cognitive and behavioral. Perception is often impaired. 

Did you know?

​Your brain is also damaged when you suffer from:

  • Stroke

  • Heart Attacks

  • Poisoning

  • Drug Abuse

  • Alcohol Abuse

  • Choking

  • Strangulation

  • Electric Shock

  • Infection

  • Drowning

  • Hypoxia/Anoxia - loss of oxygen

  • Aneurysms

  • Tumors

  • Chemical Exposure

  • Toxic Substances

  • Blood Clots

  • Neurological disease

  • Metabolic disorders

  • Repeated Seizures - 30 minutes or more

In each of these incidences, the brain is being affected and the symptoms for brain injury may be confused with the symptoms for the other physical symptoms related to the area of the body affected. Typically the other acute symptoms become the first to treat.


​The length of time an individual requires to restore or discover a capacity to acknowledge and adapt to the changes brain damage can create depend upon many factors:

  • The type of incidence of ABI/TBI

  • Severity of impact

  • The duration of unconsciousness

  • The time between incidence and medical care
  • Knowledge of care process/procedures
  • Personal Constitution

  • Current status of health

  • Availability of services and assistance

  • Support and follow up care

  • Willing Attitude / Determination

  • Supportive Environment

There can be many factors that blend to differentiate the type and outcome of each brain injury. Like fingerprints, no two brain injuries will be alike so prognosis and outcome must be measured individually for each case. For those who opt out of medical care, days and weeks later symptoms can surface and often forgotten as a causation when rendering details later on.  

What you can do

For mild injuries, many impacts can heal by themselves. We don't always see the severity going on inside the head, even where has been no impact. Keep in mind that internal bleeding or pressure can be going on. 

  • Pay attention to the symptoms present

  • Call 911 or seek emergency help

  • Help the individual to remain calm

  • Make safety and comfort a priority
  • Don't move the individual
  • Don't remove any helmet that is in place

  • Avoid moving a person's neck

  • Apply pressure to any wounds to stop bleed

  • Avoid pressure if skull might be fractured

  • Keep an eye on breathing and alertness

  • Apply CPR if signs of circulation stop
    (cough, breathing, movement)

Keep the individual comfortable and watch for signs to tell medical professionals when they arrive. The more you can relay, in quick and calm tones, the faster the professionals can respond.

After an impact occurs, the best assistance is found in the ability to articulate details and paying attention to symptoms


1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

2) Guerrero JL, Leadbetter S, Thurman DJ, Whiteneck G, and Sniezek JE. A method for estimating the prevalence of disability from traumatic brain injury. 

3.) Thurman DJ, Branche CM, Sniezek JE. The Epidemiology of Sports-Related Brain Injuries in the United States: Recent Developments. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation 1998.

4) Data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 1995-1996, of the National Center for Health Statistics. 

5) Data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey, 1996, of the National Center for Health Statistics. 

6) Unpublished data from Multiple Cause of Death Public Use Data from the National Center for Health Statistics, 1996. 

7) Mayo Clinic, Head Trauma.