Cause of Brain Injury

Causes of Brain injury

Brain injury has been in the news a lot lately. The NFL endured a scandal and a lawsuit related to head injuries and their lasting effects. And many youth sports initiatives have surfaced to help protect the brains of our young athletes. There are actually several different types of brain injury and a variety of causes. Understanding the types and causes can help you prevent brain injury for yourself or someone you love.

The types of brain injury include:

  1. Diffuse axonal injury – Occurs when there is extensive nerve tissue tearing in the brain.
  2. Concussion – Occurs when the brain suffers from an impact or a sudden change in momentum.
  3. Contusion – A bruise or bleeding of the brain.
  4. Coup-contrecoup injury – The force is strong enough to bounce the brain off of both sides of the brain.
  5. Second impact syndrome – When a person injures an already injured brain.
  6. Open and closed head injuries – Includes skull fractures.
  7. Penetrating injury – When the skull and the brain are penetrated.
  8. Shaken baby syndrome – Blood vessels in the skull rupture and bleed from shaking.
  9. Locked-in syndrome – Rare neurological condition.
  10. Anoxic brain injury – The brain does not receive oxygen.
  11. Hypoxic brain injury – The brain receives some oxygen but not enough.

As you might suspect there is some overlap in the type of brain injury a person might have. For example, a coup-contrecoup injury can also cause a concussion. In fact, concussion is the most common type of brain injury. According to the Center for Disease Control, the most common cause for traumatic brain injury and concussion is falls. Motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and violence are other common causes.

The severity of the brain injury depends on the type of damage and how severe the damage is. For example, a snowboarder wearing a helmet can fall and sustain a mild concussion when the back of their head hits the snow. If the brain bounces inside the skull, the snowboarder may also have a coup-contrecoup injury. However, if the athlete isn’t wearing a helmet, the damage done to their brain could be much worse. It could involve bleeding and swelling in the brain which can lead to coma and even death.

The best way to prevent brain injuries is to understand how they occur and what happens inside your skull when you fall or bump your head. Because the cause of most injuries is falls, it’s important to take precautions to protect your head and the brains of your loved ones. You only get one brain and the lasting effects of even mild injuries can be life changing.

Cynthia Stein, PT, MEd.
Cynthia Stein, PT, MEd.

A physical therapist and educator, Cynthia graduated with a BS in physical therapy from the University of Pittsburgh and a masters in exercise physiology from Temple University. She served as a staff physical therapist at the Annapolis Naval Hospital and chief physical therapist at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital.

She owned and operated Squirrel Hill Physical Therapy in Pittsburgh PA for 30 years. She is extensively trained in osteopathic techniques, Myofascial Release, Lymphatic Drainage, Nasal Release Technique, and PEMF. She sees patients privately and teaches continuing education for health care practitioners around the world. Visit for more information.

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