Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is caused by a jolt or blow to the head or the penetration of the skull by a foreign object. Normal brain functioning is disrupted.

Several years ago my son suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during an out-of-town soccer game. An opposing player was clearing the ball by their goal. My son took the full brunt of the ball in his right parietal. The force knocked all six-foot-two of him off his feet and out cold. He came-to quickly and convinced his coach to leave him in, scoring the winning goal for his team. At the time of the incident there were no mandates in place about removing an athlete from participating if a head or brain injury was suspected.

My son arrived home not feeling well and the right side of his head was swollen. Because it was a Sunday I took him to the hospital as soon as I heard what had happened. The ER docs looked him over, scanned his head, and pronounced him fit enough to go home. They did caution me about symptoms to watch for and to keep an eye on him overnight, just in case.

I received a call from my son during school the following day. He felt dizzy, disorientated, and nauseous. He had a severe headache, too. These symptoms were indicative of a TBI.

I picked him up from school and took him to see a sports concussion specialist, which our pediatrician referred him to. My son was given a number of tests, which he failed completely. The diagnosis was a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), also known as a concussion. He was pulled from all athletics immediately while the doctor monitored him. It would be a month until he could return to play. It would be close to a year before he felt himself.

In addition to dizziness, nausea and/or vomiting, and severe headaches, those suffering a brain injury can experience any of the following signs and symptoms: memory loss, slowing cognitive functioning, visual issues, sensitivity to light and sound, loss of smell, balance issues, trouble sleeping, fatigue, mood changes — especially irritability, feeling depressed, and seizures.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Each year it is estimated that 1.7 million adults and children sustain TBIs. Another 795,000 incur acquired brain injury (ABI). Males are more likely to sustain a TBI than females. Close to a half million children between the ages of 0 and 14 are treated annually in ERs for TBI related injuries; they are most commonly sustained by children between the ages of 0 and 4 and adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19. Education and awareness about brain injuries and brain injury prevention is critical:

  • New parents should be educated on the prevention of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
  • Soft material should cover the area around playground equipment.
  • Infants and older children riding in vehicles should be properly restrained. Parents should be educated about proper installation and use of car seats, booster seats, and seatbelts.
  • Safety gates should be installed on stairs and other elevated areas, like outside decks, and safety bars on windows to alleviate falls.
  • Coaches and officials should be trained about TBIs — what to look for and treatment.
  • Parents and youth athletes should be knowledgeable about the risks of head injuries in their sports and be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of TBIs. Athletes should wear protective equipment that is required, i.e., a helmet for horseback riding.