Frequently Asked Questions

Why is brain injury called an “invisible disability”?

Brain injury is referred to as an invisible disability because often the persistent effects are not outwardly obvious. Many of the cognitive challenges are difficult for others to recognize or acknowledge as effects of brain injury. Someone with mobility or balance issues may be deemed drunk, or those with chronic fatigue and endurance issues, as lazy and unmotivated.
All of these misperceptions can hinder a person’s efforts to be a part of their community, go to school, return to work or socialize. It is common for students with cognitive impairments to find it difficult to focus, organize and complete school work, but teachers who are unaware of the reason for a student’s difficulties, can become impatient or attribute it to behaviour problems.
By bringing awareness to the general public about the effects of brain injury, we can break down these misconceptions and create more understanding and acceptance.

What are the causes of brain injury?

The most common causes of acquired brain injury include:
• Motor vehicle accidents
• Blows to the head
• Sports injuries
• Falls or accidents
• Physical violence
• Poisoning or exposure to toxic substances
• Infection
• Choking or drowning
• Stroke
• Heart attacks
• Brain tumors
• Aneurysms
• Neurological illnesses
• Abuse of illegal drugs

Is a concussion a brain injury?

Concussion is considered a mild brain injury, but the term mild should not lesson the effect on the individual. Symptoms of a concussion can be persistent and very debilitating, ranging from chronic headaches, difficulty concentrating, memory issues, as well impairments in reasoning and thought processes. Recovering from a mild brain injury may take days, weeks, or even months, so individuals need to have realistic expectations and patience with their recovery.
risk of long-term changes in the brain is higher if the person has more than one brain injury.

What are the signs of concussion?

Whether it is a bump on the head, a sports related injury or a fall on an icy sidewalk, the following symptoms can occur:
• Headaches
• Nausea and vomiting
• Dizziness
• Confusion and/or disorientation
• Agitation
• Loss of consciousness
• Memory loss of events right before or after injury
• Mental and/or physical fatigue

Seek medical care right away if there are any of the following symptoms:
• Changes in alertness and consciousness
• Persistent confusion
• Persistent vomiting
• Seizures
• Muscle weakness on one or both sides
• Unequal pupil dilation (one pupil larger than the other)
• Walking or balance problems

Are the signs of concussion different for children?

Children with a brain injury can have the same symptoms as adults, but it is often harder for them to put into words how they feel. Call your child’s doctor if they have had a blow to the head and you notice any of the following symptoms:
• Tiredness or listlessness
• Vomiting.
• Irritability or crankiness (will not stop crying or cannot be consoled)
• Changes in eating (will not eat or nurse)
• Changes in sleep patterns
• Changes in the way the child plays
• Changes in performance at school
• Lack of interest in favorite toys or activities
• Loss of new skills, such as toilet training
• Loss of balance or unsteady walking

What are the most common cognitive effects of brain injury?

• Attention and concentration
• memory loss
• Difficulty with judgment and decision-making
• recognizing and processing sound
• understanding and producing speech
• Recognition of objects
• Distorted perceptions of size, color, and shape
• Decision making and problem solving
• Impulse control

What are the most common physical effects of brain injury?

• Chronic headache or head pain
• Chronic Seizures
• Blindness or blurred vision
• Slurred speech
• Poor balance and mobility
• Spasticity
• Problems swallowing
• Severe fatigue
• Hearing problems
• Sensitivity to noise, light, touch, smell or taste

What are the most common behavioural and emotional effects of brain injury?

• Depression and anxiety
• Verbal and physical outbursts
• Poor judgment and disinhibition
• Impulsive control issues
• Intolerance and negativity
• Apathy
• Egocentricity
• Rigidity and inflexibility
• Risky-taking behaviours
• Lack of empathy
• Lack of motivation or initiative
• Depression or anxiety

Will a person with brain injury recover?

There is no simple answer to this question. As no two brain injuries are alike, recovery outcomes are different for each individual. The extent of recovery depends on a variety of factors, including the area of the brain injured, the severity of the injury, as well as treatment and rehabilitation. The medical and rehabilitation team will work with the individual and their family to develop goals and will work collaboratively in the best interest of the individual. Return to functional skills can take years for some patients.

Does brain injury affect children differently?

Brain injury presents with the same signs and symptoms of adults with the acute changes affecting an individual’s alertness, memory, and the ability to process information. However, the cognitive effects of the brain injury are amplified by their young age. Therefore, the younger you are, the cognitive and neurobehavioural outcome is likely to be long-term. This is because the injury is occurring to the brain and the injury affects your ability to learn new information rather than affecting your ability to retain old information. Young children are just starting out their academic learning career and if they have an acquired brain injury, it affects the efficiency of their learning, or their speed and effectiveness of learning. This puts them at a real disadvantage over the long-term in comparison to adults who with a similar brain injury will have retained a great deal of old information that they have already learned and can build upon.