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Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury happens when the head violently hits an object — as in a fall or a car crash — or when something like a bullet punctures the skull and goes into the brain. Concussion is considered the mildest type of traumatic brain injury.

Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, which vary depending on the extent and location of the brain damage, include the following:

  • Headache or neck pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Behavior and mood changes

Traumatic brain injury: what you should know

  • If you notice any of these danger signs after a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body, go to the emergency room or call your doctor immediately.
  • You don’t have to be going fast, fall far or hit your head hard to suffer lasting brain damage. Even seemingly mild head injuries, where you do not lose consciousness, can cause brain injury.
  • Studies have shown that wearing a helmet can significantly reduce your risk of a serious brain injury and death. During a fall or collision, most of the impact energy is absorbed by the helmet, rather than your head and brain.

How can I get help for traumatic brain injury?

Go to the emergency room or call your primary care doctor immediately if you notice any of these danger signs after a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body.

Some traumatic brain injury symptoms may appear right away, while others may not be noticed for days or months after the injury. If you start to notice symptoms at any time, call your doctor right away.

Care for traumatic brain injury at Rush

Depending on the type and seriousness of your injury, you may be seen or treated by several different specialists at Rush, including sports medicine doctors, neurologists, neuropsychologists and physiatrists (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors).

  • Treatment will depend on the severity and location of the brain injury. Doctors will go over your options with you.
  • Most mild traumatic brain injuries do not require surgery. If you have a serious brain injury with bleeding or swelling of the brain, you may need surgery to stop the bleeding and relieve pressure.
  • If you’re having coordination or balance problems after a head injury, your doctor may send you to be evaluated by a physical therapist or occupational therapist.

Why choose Rush for traumatic brain injury care

  • The neurology, neurosurgery and orthopedics programs at Rush, which include specialists who treat traumatic brain injury, are consistently ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Athletes or individuals who suffer a bump or blow to the head can see a physician for assessment within 24 to 48 hours at the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush. The clinic has one of the largest teams of clinicians in the Midwest specially trained to assess and manage concussion in athletes.
  • The Road Home Program at Rush offers Chicago-area military veterans consultations and treatment for combat-related traumatic brain injury, plus other vital services and support for veterans and their families. Combat-related conditions, such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are prevalent among a projected one-third of returning veterans.
  • Specialists at Rush are nationally recognized for their research on the effects of concussion and how to prevent and treat traumatic brain injury.

Departments and programs that treat this condition