4 Types of Brain Injuries and 3 Levels of Severity

A brain injury can have a profound impact, instantly transforming your life forever. These injuries range from mild to severe, causing both short-term disruptions and long-lasting disabilities. There are many types of brain injuries, but below are four of the most common brain injuries sustained in accidents.

Three Levels of Traumatic Brain Injury Severity

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is classified as mild, moderate, or severe. The Glasgow Coma Scale is commonly used to assess the severity of a TBI soon after the injury. This scale measures verbal, motor, and eye responses. 

Mild TBI

A mild TBI or concussion is the least severe type of brain injury, but that doesn’t mean it’s inconsequential. For most people, mild TBI symptoms resolve on their own within two weeks, but long-term effects are still common. 

Common symptoms of a mild TBI include: 

  • Headaches or neck pain that do not subside
  • Difficulty remembering or concentrating
  • Confusion or feeling like you’re in a fog
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Mood changes (feeling sad or angry for no reason)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping a lot more or having a hard time sleeping)
  • Light-headedness, dizziness, or loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to lights and sounds
  • Blurred vision

A mild traumatic brain injury is diagnosed when the best GCS score within 24 hours of injury is 13 to 15.

Moderate TBI

Unlike mild TBIs, moderate TBIs require more intensive medical attention. These injuries often require rehabilitation, such as physical, vocational, and speech therapy. Symptoms are more serious and may persist for months or permanently, even after rehabilitation. 

Common symptoms of a moderate TBI include:

  • Loss of consciousness (no more than 24 hours)
  • Persistent headaches or worsening of headache over time
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion, restlessness, or agitation
  • Amnesia or significant impairment in cognitive functions

A moderate traumatic brain injury is diagnosed when the best GCS score within 24 hours of injury is 9 to 12.

Severe TBI

A severe TBI is the most critical category. These injuries often involve widespread brain damage or damage to multiple parts of the brain. Severe TBI commonly causes profound and permanent neurological effects. 

Common symptoms of a severe TBI include:

  • Extended unconsciousness (more than 24 hours)
  • Coma and other disorders of consciousness
  • Profound confusion or disorientation
  • Agitation, combativeness, or other unusual behavior
  • Weak or absent reflexes
  • Paralysis or loss of muscle function
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
  • Profound difficulty with cognitive function and communication

A severe traumatic brain injury is diagnosed when the best GCS score within 24 hours of injury is 3 to 8.

Moderate to severe TBI is one of the main causes of injury-related death and disability. 

Four Common Types of Brain Injuries

In addition to severity, brain injuries are classified in several ways. 

A brain injury is usually classified as one or the other of these broad types: 

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) or acquired brain injury (ABI): As the name implies, a TBI is caused by some type of trauma. This includes a blow to the head or rapid acceleration and deceleration. Acquired brain injuries are caused by internal factors like disease, infection, or lack of oxygen. 
  • Open or closed head injury: A closed head injury means the skull is not fractured, and there is no penetrating wound. An open or penetrating head injury means the skull has been penetrated or broken. A gunshot is a common example. 
  • Primary or secondary brain injury: An injury is primary if it’s directly caused by the trauma. Secondary injuries are an indirect result of the trauma or any medical incident. Many accident victims suffer primary and secondary TBI. After an initial injury, a cascade of changes in the brain can lead to secondary injuries. 

Not all brain injuries can be categorized as traumatic or acquired. Birth injuries and brain damage caused by congenital or genetic conditions are usually considered neither acquired nor traumatic. 

1. Concussions

A concussion is a mild TBI and the most common type of brain injury. Concussions may be caused by a blow to the head, rapid and sudden change in movement, or violent shaking. Concussions often happen in car accidents, falls, sports, and workplace accidents

About 80% of TBIs are mild head injuries or concussions.

2. Hypoxic/Anoxic Brain Injuries

Anoxic or hypoxic brain injuries are forms of acquired brain injuries. They are very similar and common types of secondary brain injuries after a motor vehicle accident or serious fall. They can also be caused by diving or swimming accidents and boating accidents. 

Both injuries are caused by inadequate oxygen to the brain. Hypoxic injuries happen when the brain receives at least some oxygen. Anoxic injuries happen when oxygen is cut off completely.

3. Diffuse Axonal Injuries (DAIs)

A diffuse axonal injury is one of the most serious brain injuries. DAI occurs when the axons or nerve fibers of the brain are sheared or torn as the brain shifts and rotates within the skull. 

High-speed car accidents are the most common cause of DAI, but these injuries can also be caused by violence, sports accidents, and falls, especially in the elderly. 

DAI causes widespread brain damage and affects the ability of multiple regions of the brain to communicate with each other. In people with traumatic brain injury, DAI is the leading cause of disability, coma, and persistent vegetative states.

4. Coup-Contrecoup Injuries

A coup-contrecoup injury is actually two brain injuries that occur almost simultaneously: 

  • Coup injury: an injury below the site of impact
  • Contrecoup injury: an injury opposite the site of impact
  • Coup-contrecoup injury: both a coup and contrecoup injury 

A coup-contrecoup injury happens when significant force causes the brain to crash against the opposite side of the skull after a blow to the head. These brain injuries cause damage to at least two areas of the brain.

Contact the Brain Injury Law Firm of Lawson Personal Injury Attorneys in Lawrenceville for Help Today

If you or a loved one is grappling with the long-term repercussions of a traumatic brain injury, it’s crucial to understand your rights and legal options. Experienced and empathetic legal representation can help you navigate the complex medical, legal, and financial aspects of these injuries and secure fair compensation for the challenges you face. 

For more information, please contact our experienced brain injury lawyer at Lawson Personal Injury Attorneys to schedule a free initial consultation today. We have a convenient location in Lawrenceville, GA.

Lawson Personal Injury Attorneys
320 S Perry St, Lawrenceville, GA 30046
(678) 446-3655