Traumatic brain injuries refer to injuries where brain damage is caused by an external force. This could be through physical contact, blast waves, or forces causing a rapid ‘acceleration-deceleration’ motion to the head (such as whiplash). The term also includes the secondary effects caused by such trauma – symptoms such as swelling in the brain or oxygen deprivation to areas of brain tissue.
All traumatic brain injuries have the potential to cause catastrophic injuries.
Traumatic brain injuries are often categorised into open and closed injuries:
- Closed – This covers injuries where the skull remains intact but trauma is still caused to the brain. This could be from an impact to the head, which does not perforate the skull, or from sharp jolting movements which displace the brain. These forces can strain and tear nerve tissues, or damage blood vessels leading to internal bleeding in the brain.
- Open or penetrating – This covers injuries where the skull is broken through. Damage to the brain can result from the initial trauma or from the brain being left exposed. High speed collisions and impacts from projectiles or from sharp objects can all cause open head injuries.