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Brain Injury

Brain injuries can have many causes; depending on the cause damage can affect one or multiple parts of the brain. Brain injuries can fall into two categories. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden trauma happens to the brain. This kind of brain injury can occur when the brain suddenly hits an object, but the object does not enter the skull or when an object does penetrate the skull through to the brain. The other kind of brain injury is called non-traumatic brain injury, and happens due to disease or difficulties with health. 

The most common cause of TBIs for those under the age of 75 are due to transportation involving cars, bikes, motorcycles, and pedestrians. The most common cause of TBIs for those above the age of 75 are due to falls. Other causes of TBIs include violence (such as abuse or firearm assaults), and sports injuries. While it is impossible to predict when or how a brain injury may occur, doing the following may lower your chance of reciving one:

  • Wear a seatbelt while riding in/driving a vehicle
  • Avoid driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Look for approaching vehicles before crossing the street
  • Wear proper safety equipment while riding a bike or playing sports
  • Keep firearms and bullets secure in a locked cabinet while not in use
  • Ensure that the floor of your child's playground is made of a shock-absorbing surface
  • Avoid falls by:

Areas affected by a brain injury can include memory, communication, personality, mobility and coordination. The impact the brain injury has on these areas can vary from mild to severe, depending on the injury.  

Symptoms: Symptoms vary depending on the severity and type of injury. This list is a short example of some symptoms, though others may occur.

  • Persistent headache, confusion, and dizziness
  • Blurred vison/tired eyes
  • Ringing ears
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Behavioural or mood changes
  • Trouble with memory, concentration, or other cognitave capabilities
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in extremities
  • Loss of coordination

Concussions

A concussion is a type of TBA that occurs when the head suddenly hits an object. Concussions do not show up on x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs, but are becoming increasingly common injuries for Canadians, particularly in those who play sports. Among children and youth who visted an emergency department for head injury, 39% were diagnosed with concussions, and a further 24% were possible concussions. Symptoms of a concussion may appear immediately or a few days after the injury occurs and symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a couple months. The impact of a concussion can have serious consequences if not worked with by a medical professional.

Why Choose Physical Therapy?

No two brain injuries are the same. Along with various physical effects such as impaired balance and muscle weakness, brain injuries can cause mental fatigue, altered mood and cognitive function. Physical therapists can help with brain injuries ranging from mild to severe. Physical therapists can help you become more physically active, which can help improve mental fatigue and mood. Physical therapists are trained to design programs that address many of the effects of brain injury.

When is the Right Time for Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a very important part of recovering from an acquired brain injury. Typically, individuals begin to see a physical therapist immediately after an injury, but it is also very helpful in years following. Continued physical therapy can help maintain or even improve the following effects of acquired brain injury:

  • Improving Strength and Flexibility: Regular exercise and stretching can help keep your muscles healthy and free from injury.
  • Fatigue: Physical activity can help your sleep to give you more energy throughout the day.
  • Balance: Specific exercises can help you feel more stable on your feet.
  • Cognitive Function: Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain to improve attention, memory, and problem solving.
  • Concussion Management: Gradual return to physical activity can help relieve concussion symptoms.
  • Return to Activities: Physical therapists can help you monitor your symptoms and return to your previous routines when appropriate.
  • Changes in Mood: Physical activity can boost your mood and decrease symptoms of depression. Physical therapists can also teach various relaxation techniques to help manage stress and decrease irritability.

*The symptoms listed are only a few that a physical therapist can help with. Talk to your doctor to see if physical therapy would benefit you!

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Students from the School of Physiotherapy created a printable info sheet and infographics on this topic in partnership with the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association and the Saskatchewan Physiotherapy Association. Click here for the info sheet