Understanding mild traumatic brain injuries

As a child of the 1960s and 1970s, I can attest to a general lack of knowledge in society regarding brain injuries.

I vividly recall friends and fellow students being “knocked out” on the playground or playing sports; adults simply used smelling salts to get the student come around. A kid would go right back into the game or onto the playground, without another thought.

The word “concussion” was used liberally, but never the words “traumatic brain injury”. Those words were reserved for people in a coma.

We have come a long way in realizing the importance of identifying when a brain injury has occurred, and taking immediate action to minimize further brain damage.

Identifying Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

The American Congress of Rehabilitation defined MTBI in 1993, a breakthrough in understanding brain injuries:

            A patient with mild traumatic brain injury is a person who has had a traumatically induced physiological disruption of brain function…

“Concussion” is used interchangeably with the term “mild traumatic brain injury” (MTBI). That is unfortunate: many people still believe a concussion is merely a “knock on the head” from which a person recovers quickly, and without any future problems. But this is often not the case.

Mechanics of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

An MTBI is caused by bruising, tearing or swelling of the brain.

No injury to the brain is "mild" to the person living with MTBI

No injury to the brain is “mild” to the person living with MTBI

It can come from either a direct biomechanical force, such as:

  1. A blow to the head;
  2. Falling and striking the head on the ground; or
  3. Striking the head against a hard surface in a car accident.

Or by an indirect force, such as:

  1. A jolt to the head and brain as a result of an exterior pressure, such as a blast or explosion near military personnel in war zones; or
  2. An acceleration/deceleration neck movement, without direct trauma to the head. This type of brain injury can occur in sports, when a player’s body takes a hit that causes the shoulders and head to change speed or direction violently, or when a person’s head is whipped forcefully in a car accident.

Most MTBIs occur without loss of consciousness. Some people minimize the potential severity of the injury, or take it less seriously, if the TBI is not extremely severe

There is a saying that no surgery is minor if it is happening to you. I believe that the same is true for a mild traumatic brain injury.

Any injury to the brain is not mild to those who are suffering from it.

All of us who care about someone with an MTBI need to keep making progress in education and prevention.


A significant part of Coluccio Law’s practice is dedicated to helping traumatic brain injury survivors. Today, I am speaking at an Oregon Trial Lawyer’s Association seminar for other attorneys helping clients who are living with traumatic brain injuries.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries:  Why our Clients need Our Help and How We Need to Properly Evaluate, Understand, and Develop Their Cases.


Image courtesy of DigitalArt, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


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