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What are the warning signs of brain injury?

The body of scientific research on brain injuries continues to grow. As the scientific and medical communities gain a greater understanding of the risk of long-term brain damage and serious injury that can result from repeated head injuries, there is a greater push toward educating the public on the symptoms of a brain injury.

The medical definition of a traumatic brain injury is a change in brain functioning or a pathology that is caused by an external force. In efforts focused on educating the public about brain injuries, the information primarily relates to those described as acquired brain injuries, or injuries to the brain that are not degenerative, congenital, or hereditary but are instead caused by trauma after birth.

There are many different types of brain injuries but two of the most commonly discussed are concussion and second impact syndrome. A concussion can result after the brain experiences a blow or other trauma. It can result in stretching of or damage to cranial nerves. Although some people lose consciousness after sustaining a concussion, this is not always the case. Other symptoms can include a dazed feeling, skull fracture, brain bleeding or swelling.

The dangers related to second impact syndrome are becoming more understood. This type of brain injury results when a person suffers a second head injury before fully healing from a prior brain injury. The risks associated with this brain injury are one of the reasons why it is important to recognize common warning signs, seek prompt treatment, and avoid the risk of further injury until fully healed. Although a person suffering from a brain injury may experience a range of different symptoms, some of the most common warning signs include excessive drowsiness, vomiting or nausea, slurred speech, numbness, severe headache, dizziness or loss of vision, weakness in arms and legs and loss of consciousness.

Source: Brain Injury Association of America, "Welcome to the Brain Injury Association of America," 2014

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