Designating Traumatic Brain Injuries

1172278 1 1As the phrase implies, “Traumatic Brain Injury” (“TBI”) refers to damage to a person’s brain as a result of trauma. TBIs have become a pervasive feature of the Canadian social landscape. Where, 30 years ago, certain kinds of trauma to a person’s head would have been fatal, medical advancements now result in more people surviving. This, in turn, means that an increased number of Canadians live with the ongoing effects of a TBI.

The symptoms of TBIs present on a spectrum – anywhere from mild and short-lasting on one end to severe and permanent on the other end.

The brain is a complex and nuanced organ. Depending on what part of the brain is affected, and to what extent, the expression of a TBI will be very different. This means that individuals who suffer TBIs will be affected differently –  cognitively, psychologically, and physically.

The complexity inherent in the variety of presentations has called out for a simplified method for describing a TBI. A simplified description facilitates efficient communication between medical practitioners, care workers and support staff. The medical community has developed designation systems to address this complexity.  One designation system is to categorize a TBI as either mild, moderate or severe. This designation system acts as an objective and widely-recognized tool which indicates the severity of a TBI.

Using post-traumatic amnesia (PTA), loss of consciousness (LOC), and the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) as assessment tools, the following chart indicates what TBIs are considered mild, moderate, and severe.

While the categorization is useful, it can be misleading.   The main reason for this is that a so-called ‘mild’ TBI can have permanent and disabling consequences to an individual.  An example of this is a business person who has suffered a mild TBI but who can no longer multitask or organize or who suffers overwhelming fatigue by 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon.

There are other ways of categorizing TBIs and these will be discussed In our next blog.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with a traumatic brain injury support is available. Check out BIAWW (, BIAPH (, BIST ( and OBIA ( for more information, event schedules and support groups in your area. Be safe!


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