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February 25, 2015 / Mark Kerrigan

3 traits of TBIs

CT Scan of brain with subdural hematoma

CT Scan of brain with subdural hematoma

First off, let’s talk language. I don’t know where most people are in understanding the nomenclature of the brain injury world. (Seems like every time I mention a TBI, people say, “What? What is that?”


So a TBI is a Traumatic Brain Injury. TBI. I pretty much use the term “head injury” interchangeably with brain injury. A coma is a loss of consciousness of more than 5 minutes during which time new memories have difficulties in being laid down. The Glasgow Coma Scale is what people typically use to describe the severity of comas. For our purposes, we don’t need to understand the numbers, just realize that the Glasgow Coma Scale starts at 15 and the severity increases as the numbers decrease to 1.

Characteristics of TBIs

  1. Since the majority of injuries involve coupcontrecoup, the front part of the brain is typically injured since there are sharp edges on the inside of the skull. Coupcontrecoup is the characteristic of the brain to slosh around inside the head like jello. And since the brain “sloshes” from one side of the head to the other, pretty much wherever the head is impacted, it affects the frontal and temporal lobes. The main tasks of the frontal lobes are higher-order, executive functions–essentially, the ability to plan and follow multi-step directions. That’s why so many people who have been either hit in the head with a bat or other object or have been in a car wreck have such a hard time sitting and listening to directions before jumping right into action. Personally, I was misdiagnosed as having adult ADD as a result of my TBI, but was later told–some 11 years later–that in most cases ADD didn’t come from a TBI. It might have been present before, but it rarely comes as a result of having brain trauma.
  2. The temporal lobes, which are located as the name suggests on either side of the brain just above the temples. The chief responsible of these lobes are concerning language. Both spoken language and the written word. Finding the correct words for appropriate situations or for the appropriate object. For example, a survivor of a TBI may have difficulty finding the word for door, but may think of an umbrella when someone says the word shelf to them. Therefore, patients/survivors who present this injury are often thought of as stoned, high or plain stupid. I know that people have thought that about me–especially when I’ve been trying to recollect a story from the past without omitting any details.

    Coupcontrecoup is repeated motion of the brain hitting the inside of the skull.

    Coupcontrecoup is repeated motion of the brain hitting the inside of the skull.

  3. Often damages to the frontotemporal areas of the brain are also slower visual and tactile reaction times. This may mean that the patient may take longer to truly “know” and understand what a red light means. Sometimes my wife will say, didn’t you see that light change?” I did, but it didn’t mean anything to me. It just didn’t mean anything to me. Similarly, the reaction times may be longer; for example, the survivor may not be able to feel his hand burn when he places it on a hot stove eye the way a non-TBI-er would. Therefore, it would be more likely that his hand could be burned.

In Conclusion

What we’ve mentioned here are just a hint of what someone who has a TBI can experience. If you or soemone you know has a TBI, you may find some solace in knowing what they experience. Feel free to leave a comment below of your experience or of someone you know. And of course, if you have any questions, leave them below.



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