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Types of Trauma that Cause Traumatic Brain Injuries

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Posted on April 4, 2014

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) range widely in severity. More severe traumatic brain injury cases can have a permanent impact on a person’s physical coordination, cognition, memory, and muscle control. A head injury results from an outside force involving a direct blow or violent, jarring force to the brain. Brain tissue may be injured or even permanently damaged depending on the type and severity of the trauma. This type of injury can cause the skull to be fractured or penetrated, while the brain may endure tissue rupture, swelling, or bleeding.

Types of Trauma Associated with Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are caused by the following types of trauma or impacts that affect the brain:

  • Direct Blow: A direct impact from a falling object or from the skull striking a hard surface such as pavement can cause the brain to bruise or swell. A blow from a sharp object can crush or penetrate the skull, resulting in an open head injury. Contact sports and physical assaults may also involve sharp, direct blows to the skull.
  • Jarring / Glancing Blow: An angular or glancing blow to the head or body may produce a strong enough acceleration or deceleration to jar the brain inside the skull. Violent, indirect forces can cause the brain to expand and contract inside the skull, similar to a ripple effect in ballistics gelatin. This type of blow can produce moderate to severe concussions and is common in contact sports. Football players who are hit/tackled from multiple angles may experience a head injury caused by these glancing blows.

Common Causes of Trauma and Resulting Head Injuries

The list below includes general situations which typically result in some form of traumatic brain injury (TBI):

  • Traffic Accidents: Collisions might involve two or more cars, motorcycles, bicycles or pedestrians. Traumatic brain injuries occur when a victim’s head strikes a dash board, concrete/pavement, or other solid surface as a result of a collision. A violent “whiplash” effect, may produce jarring forces strong enough to cause the brain to twist or collide with the inside surface of the skull.
  • Falls: Mayo Clinic statistics claim that falls are the most common source of traumatic brain injuries among the elderly and in young children. Falling from a bed, down stairs, off of a ladder or in the shower are all examples.
  • Explosions and Combat Injuries: Explosions from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) overseas are a leading cause of TBI among military personnel. An explosive blast can produce shockwaves strong enough to injure the brain directly. Explosions may also occur in certain types of industrial settings, such as mines or chemical plants.
  • Sports and Recreation Injuries: Many sports and certain recreational activities pose an increased risk of traumatic brain injuries due to their physical or extreme nature. Common examples include:
    • Football
    • Boxing
    • Lacrosse
    • Hockey
    • Skateboarding
    • Rock-climbing
    • Skydiving
  • Violence and Assaults: According to Mayo Clinic statistics, nearly 10% of all head injuries result from violent events such as gunshots, domestic violence or child abuse.


CDC – What are the Leading Causes of TBI

Mayo Clinic – Traumatic Brain Injury