Traumatic Brain Injury Vs. Concussion: Signs to Look for

Distinguishing between a traumatic brain injury vs. concussion is critical for understanding the potential complications that can arise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported about 214,110 people hospitalized with TBIs and concussions in 2020. While some symptoms and effects of head trauma resolve with time, others persist, or lead to additional issues. Recognizing these complications early on can significantly impact the victim’s recovery and long-term well-being, as well as his or her pursuit of legal remedies in cases of negligence or personal injury.

The Most Common Brain Injuries in Nevada

From falls to motor vehicle accidents, incidents of varying types may result in head trauma. Concussions and traumatic brain injuries are among the most common types of brain injuries, and a big reason why it is so important to wear a helmet on motorcycles or while riding a bicycle. Recognizing the signs and distinguishing between these two conditions is imperative for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury caused by a sudden blow or jolt to the head. Unlike more severe TBIs, concussions often do not result in structural damage to the brain visible on imaging tests. Instead, they are characterized by temporary changes in brain function.

Common causes of concussions include sports-related injuries, car accidents, falls, and assaults. The effects of a concussion can range from mild to severe and may include symptoms such as headaches, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and memory problems. The symptoms of a concussion may not always manifest immediately after the injury, and some individuals may not realize they have a concussion until hours or even days later.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a broader category of brain injury that encompasses a range of severity, from mild to severe. TBIs occur when an external force, such as a blow or penetrating object, causes damage to the brain. Unlike concussions, TBIs can result in visible abnormalities on imaging scans.

Severe TBIs can lead to long-term or permanent disabilities, affecting cognitive, emotional, and physical functions. Common causes of TBIs include motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries, and violent assaults. It’s critical to seek immediate medical attention if a TBI is suspected, as prompt diagnosis and treatment can significantly impact the prognosis.

How to Tell the Difference Between a TBI and a Concussion

Differentiating between a concussion and a TBI is important for seeking appropriate medical care and taking legal action. While both conditions may share some symptoms, there are key distinctions to be aware of:

Symptom Severity

Concussions typically involve milder symptoms that may resolve on their own with rest and time. In contrast, TBIs can lead to more severe and lasting symptoms, often requiring intensive medical intervention and rehabilitation.

Imaging Findings

TBIs may be identified through imaging tests like CT scans or MRIs, which can reveal structural damage to the brain. Concussions, on the other hand, often do not show visible abnormalities on such scans.

Duration of Symptoms

Concussion symptoms may subside within a few days to a few weeks, while TBI symptoms can persist for an extended period, sometimes indefinitely.

Loss of Consciousness

While loss of consciousness is possible in both concussions and TBIs, it is more commonly associated with severe TBIs.


Post-traumatic amnesia, where the individual has difficulty forming new memories after the injury, is more likely to occur in cases of moderate to severe TBIs.

Medical Evaluation

Due to the potential severity of TBIs, a comprehensive medical evaluation, including imaging, is typically conducted to assess the extent of the injury.

Signs of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries can range from mild to severe, with potentially life-altering consequences. Identifying the signs of a TBI is imperative for prompt medical intervention.

Physical Signs

In cases of a traumatic brain injury, physical signs may become apparent. These can serve as critical indicators of the severity of the injury and the urgency for medical attention. Common physical signs of TBIs include:

Loss of Consciousness

Losing consciousness is a significant indicator of a traumatic brain injury. If the individual loses consciousness, even for a brief period, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention.

Persistent Headache

Severe, unrelenting headaches are common after a traumatic brain injury. They may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting.

Dizziness and Balance Issues

Difficulty maintaining balance or experiencing unexplained dizziness can be indicative of a TBI.

Sensory Disturbances

Changes in vision or hearing, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or altered taste or smell are potential indicators.

Cognitive and Behavioral Changes

Following a traumatic brain injury, individuals often experience cognitive and behavioral shifts that are important to recognize. These changes may be subtle at first, but can have a significant impact on daily life. They include:

Memory Problems

Difficulty recalling events before or after the injury is a common cognitive sign of a TBI.

Confusion and Disorientation

The affected individual may appear bewildered, have trouble understanding conversations, or struggle with following instructions.

Difficulty Concentrating

A TBI can impair focus and attention, making it challenging to complete tasks that were once routine.

Mood Swings

Sudden, extreme shifts in mood or behavior can be a manifestation of a TBI.

Emotional and Psychological Symptoms

In addition to physical and cognitive signs, traumatic brain injuries can lead to a range of emotional and psychological symptoms. These symptoms can significantly impact an individual’s overall well-being. They encompass:

Depression and Anxiety

Individuals with a TBI may experience heightened levels of anxiety or depression due to the changes in brain function.

In certain instances, particularly when a concussion is coupled with other stressors or traumas, it can potentially lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although concussions on their own do not directly induce PTSD, the emotional and psychological repercussions of a concussion can play a role in its onset, particularly if the person endured a profoundly distressing event concurrent with the head injury.

Irritability and Agitation

An increased tendency towards irritability, impatience, or anger can be observed.

Social Isolation

Withdrawal from social interactions and activities may occur as a result of cognitive and emotional changes.

Why It Is Important to Identify Brain Injuries?

Distinguishing between TBI vs. concussions is critical for understanding the complications that can arise. Recognizing these complications early on can significantly impact the victim’s recovery and long-term well-being, as well as their pursuit of legal remedies in cases of negligence or personal injury.

Risk Factors of an Undiagnosed Concussion

If a concussion goes undiagnosed, it can lead to a range of serious consequences. Initially, the individual may not realize the severity of his or her injury, attributing symptoms like headache, dizziness, and confusion to temporary discomfort. However, beneath the surface, the brain may be struggling to recover from the trauma. Without proper care, the condition can worsen.

Over time, an undiagnosed concussion may result in prolonged and persistent symptoms, known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS). These can include chronic headaches, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. Additionally, the risk of subsequent concussions may increase, since an already compromised brain is more susceptible to further injury.

In more severe cases, a condition known as second impact syndrome (SIS) can occur if a person sustains a second concussion before fully recovering from the first. This rare but potentially fatal condition leads to rapid and catastrophic brain swelling. Prompt identification and management of concussions are vital to prevent such dire outcomes.

Ultimately, an undiagnosed concussion can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being. Seeking immediate medical attention after a head injury is crucial for a full and timely recovery.

Long-Term Impacts of a TBI

Traumatic brain injuries encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from mild concussions to severe, life-altering injuries. Understanding the potential long-term effects of a TBI is essential for both the injured party and their loved ones.

Cognitive Impairments

Depending on the severity of the TBI, cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities can be impaired. This can have a profound impact on daily life, including work, education, and personal relationships.

Emotional and Behavioral Changes

TBIs can lead to emotional instability, mood swings, and behavioral changes. This can be particularly challenging for individuals and their families to navigate, often necessitating specialized care and support.

Physical Disabilities

Severe TBIs can result in physical disabilities, ranging from motor skill impairments to paralysis. These may require ongoing medical treatment, rehabilitation, and adaptive equipment.

Financial Strain

The costs associated with treating and managing a TBI in Las Vegas can be overwhelming. For example, these costs may include medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, and potential loss of income due to disability.

Given the profound and far-reaching consequences of a TBI, you may find it helpful to seek legal guidance if the injury was caused by the negligence or intentional actions of another party. A personal injury lawyer can help navigate the legal complexities, ensuring that you receive the compensation necessary to cover medical expenses, ongoing care, and other related costs of a TBI vs. concussion.