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Symptoms of a Brain Injury

You or your child has bumped the head. You’re aware that there’s a risk of brain injury and concussion. If you know the signs and symptoms of brain injury, you can take immediate steps to reduce long-term consequences.

Short-Term Symptoms

Brain injuries are mysterious. One person might have immediate changes in their vision and balance while another may simply feel more emotional or tired than usual. Brain injury symptoms also vary in severity depending on the type of brain injury.

A serious brain injury will have very noticeable symptoms right from the time of injury. Let’s explore the mild symptoms first because they’re often ignored. Ignoring these symptoms could cause lasting brain damage and even death. It’s important to know what to look for. 

Some symptoms of mild TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Vision problems
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Decreased concentration and attention span
  • Reduced cognitive speed and memory problems
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Mood swings

These symptoms can come and go over time. It can take a few days to several months to recover from a mild concussion or brain injury. If you or someone you love has these symptoms after hitting their head or falling, it’s always a good idea to have them checked out by the doctor. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms go away.

If a person loses consciousness, that’s a more serious brain injury and again they might experience the symptoms above. They might also be confused and disoriented. Anytime someone loses consciousness after hitting their head, have them checked out by a doctor. A severe concussion or brain injury will cause lasting coma and can result in a minimally responsive or persistent vegetative state.

Some Symptoms Develop over Time

Keep in mind that symptoms of a head injury can occur immediately or can develop over time. It may take a few hours or even days for symptoms to surface. Problems can occur later as a result of bleeding or swelling inside the skull. If you notice that a loved one is behaving strangely or has enlarged or abnormal pupils, call the doctor and get help right away. If they vomit, have a severe headache, or lose consciousness, it’s a sign that they need to see a doctor immediately.

When you are able to recognize the symptoms of a brain injury and get the necessary help, recovery is much easier and more likely. It can take months to recover from even a mild head injury. Take precautions to protect yourself and the ones you love.

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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