What are the Long-Term Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Friday, August 25, 2023

What are the Long-Term Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

In the United States, mild head trauma accounts for 75% of all traumatic brain injuries each year.

Even if someone survives a head injury, accommodations will most likely need to be made to care for a TBI survivor. It can be hard to regain independence, and most severe TBI sufferers will have life-long physical and cognitive challenges.

If you or a family member have suffered from a traumatic brain injury, the brain injury attorneys at Malman Law would like to relay need-to-know information regarding brain injuries.

Defining Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can result from blunt force head trauma or penetrating trauma. A blunt force head trauma occurs when an object comes in contact with your head or if a falling object strikes your head. A car accident is a common cause, as many people hit their heads in a crash.

Since blunt force head trauma does not involve a penetration of the skull, it is known as a closed head injury. In a closed head injury, an object hits the head with enough force to cause the brain to move rapidly back and forth in the skull.

A penetrating trauma, on the other hand, is known as an open head injury. Penetrating trauma is likely to damage brain tissue. Penetrating trauma can be caused by an object piercing the skull, such as a bullet, shrapnel, knife, or metal fragment.

Diffuse vs. Focal Brain injury

Any force to the head will disrupt brain function. Depending on the type of accident, a person may experience a diffuse or focal brain injury. A diffuse brain injury occurs over a widespread area of the brain. A focal brain injury is just the opposite; it is concentrated in one region of the brain.

Since a penetrating or open TBI usually only affects one part of the brain, it is usually associated with a focal brain injury. Conversely, a closed head injury is usually associated with a diffuse brain injury since it frequently affects more than one region of the brain.

Types of Diffuse Injuries

A diffuse injury is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. It can occur in a car accident, fall, or sports-related accident.

A diffuse injury may include a concussion, a diffuse axonal injury, or cerebral edema:


A concussion is a low-impact injury that may cause an instant loss of awareness or alertness following an accident.

A concussion is often caused by a jolt to the head, which disrupts chemical signals in the brain. While a person may experience cognitive impairment, it may not be present on an MRI or CT scan.

In some concussions, a person may lose consciousness. Common symptoms include headache, memory loss, confusion, nausea, and vomiting.

Diffuse Axonal Injury

A more severe type of diffuse brain injury is a diffuse axonal injury (DAI). A diffuse axonal injury is a tearing of the brain’s connective nerve fibers or axons. This tearing occurs when the brain shifts and rotates within the skull.

The most common type of DAI injury involves a high-speed motor vehicle accident since the sudden acceleration and deceleration can easily cause a tearing of the brain’s axons.

When the amount of force is significant, your brain’s white matter may be affected. This tissue is known as “white matter” because it is covered in protective sheaths called myelin, which are white in appearance. White matter is composed of a large network of axons, which allows for communication between different areas of your brain.

TBI patients who experience damage to the brain’s white matter may have trouble learning new things, walking, and balancing.

Cerebral Edema

Cerebral edema is a swelling of brain tissue. The swelling is caused by an increase in water content between or in brain cells. It is a secondary injury since it is the body’s response to the initial trauma. Due to the brain having limited space within the skull cavity, any swelling can quickly become dangerous.

Symptoms of cerebral edema often include headaches, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and seizures.

Types of Focal Injuries

Anatomy of the Brain

The brain is composed of three major parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. The cerebrum is the largest part of your brain and is composed of the right and left hemispheres.

The cerebral cortex is the outer layer that lies on top of your cerebrum. It is also known as the brain’s “gray matter.” The cerebral cortex comprises six lobes: frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes. Each of these lobes is responsible for processing different information.

A summary of each lobe and its function:

  • Frontal lobe: decision-making, problem-solving, conscious thought, emotional and behavioral control
  • Temporal lobe: language comprehension, memory, and hearing
  • Parietal lobe: sensory information and processing, spatial processing and navigation
  • Occipital lobe: visual processing and interpretation, object and facial recognition, depth and distance perception

A focal injury would normally involve damage to one lobe in one hemisphere.

Below are examples of symptoms associated with damage to the frontal and parietal lobes:

Frontal Lobe

In traumatic brain injuries, damage to Broca’s area, known as Broca’s aphasia, can affect a person’s speech production. A person who suffers from Broca’s aphasia may be able to understand speech but unable to find the right words and have difficulty forming complete sentences.

Symptoms of Broca’s aphasia may include:

  • Poor or absent grammar
  • Trouble with writing sentences
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty repeating what has been said by others
  • Frustration

Parietal Lobe

Damage to the parietal lobe can cause issues processing sensory information. If the left parietal lobe is damaged, a person may develop Gerstmann’s Syndrome.

Since the left parietal lobe is responsible for sensory perception and management, a person who has Gerstmann’s Syndrome may experience the following symptoms:

  • Right-left confusion
  • Agraphia: difficulty writing
  • Acalculia: difficulty with simple arithmetic
  • Aphasia: difficulty with communication
  • Agnosia: difficulty perceiving objects normally

Common Long-Term Effects of TBI

The effects of a TBI will largely depend on what area of the brain was injured and the severity of the trauma.

A person who sustains a severe TBI may experience any of the following long-term symptoms:

  • Memory Loss
  • Trouble understanding and processing information
  • Difficulty with decision-making
  • Seizures
  • Visual changes
  • Reduced language skills
  • Mood swings
  • Coordination and balancing problems

The more serious a traumatic brain injury, the more likely a person will develop significant cognitive, physical, motor, and language deficits. It is important that a person who has a TBI receive medical attention immediately, especially if they are presenting symptoms present with a head trauma.

A Dedicated Chicago Brain Injury Lawyer

The effects of a traumatic brain injury can have far-reaching ramifications. No matter your TBI symptoms, you need an attorney you can count on. Contact Malman Law today to schedule your free consultation.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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