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Understanding Types of Traumatic Brain Injury

Medically reviewed by Maushmi Sheth
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Medically reviewed by Maushmi Sheth

TBIs are a significant global health concern. They affect millions of people each year. They can occur from a blow to the head, sudden acceleration/deceleration, or penetrating objects. They’re often associated with falls and accidents. However, TBIs can occur due to sports traumas, assaults, and blast waves.

Understanding the different types of traumatic brain injury is crucial. It’s for early diagnosis, treatment planning, and potential recovery. This article will delve into the various classifications of TBIs. We will explore their unique characteristics, causes, and potential long-term effects.

By gaining a deeper understanding of these traumas, we can better support individuals affected and advocate for their well-being.


Types of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

They can be categorized in several ways. It provides a clearer understanding of the complexities and variations within this condition. Here’s an exploration of some key types of TBIs.

Infographic of different brain injuries types

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)

This type of TBI affects the white matter. It consists of nerve fibers connecting different brain regions. It occurs when the brain rapidly rotates or accelerates within the skull. This type of traumatic brain injury causes microscopic tears in these fibers. DAI can be difficult to diagnose as it often lacks clear symptoms on imaging tests. Symptoms, such as memory issues, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue, may appear gradually. And they can worsen over time. The severity of DAI can range from mild to severe. It impacts various cognitive and physical functions.

Anoxic Brain Injury

This trauma arises from a lack of oxygen reaching the brain. It’s typically caused by suffocation, near-drowning, or cardiac arrest. When deprived of oxygen, brain cells begin to die. It leads to potential long-term impairments. Symptoms can vary. It depends on the duration and severity of oxygen deprivation. These may include coma, cognitive decline, movement disorders, and speech or language difficulties. Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in recovery. It focuses on improving cognitive and physical function depending on the extent of brain damage.

Secondary Brain Injury

It occurs in the hours or days following the trauma. It arises from a cascade of events triggered by the primary trauma. It includes inflammation, swelling, and blood vessel constriction. These processes can further damage brain tissue and impede recovery. Managing focuses on minimizing its impact. It’s done by addressing factors like blood pressure, brain swelling, and oxygenation.

Primary Injury

Primary traumas are the direct consequences of the initial traumatic event. They are as a blow to the head or a penetrating object. They may involve damage to brain tissue, blood vessels, or skull fractures. The severity of the primary trauma directly correlates with the severity of the TBI and potential long-term outcomes. Symptoms associated with primary trauma can vary. It depends on the location and extent of the damage.


Besides primary injury, there is a concussion. This is the most common type of TBI, often resulting from a mild bump or blow to the head. Symptoms like confusion, dizziness, headache, and temporary memory loss are common. But they usually resolve within a few days or weeks. It’s often considered a mild trauma. However, proper diagnosis and management are crucial. They ensure safe and complete recovery, including cognitive rest and avoiding further impact.

Additional Types of TBI

Beyond the listed categories, other specific types of TBIs exist, including:

  • Penetrating Head Trauma. Caused by objects piercing the skull, it leads to direct brain damage. And it requires immediate medical attention.
  • Coup-Contrecoup Trauma. It occurs when the brain collides with both sides of the skull. It causes damage at the point of impact and the opposite side.
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage. Bleeding within the skull cavity due to ruptured blood vessels. It requires specialized treatment to prevent further damage.

Understanding the various types of TBIs and their characteristics is crucial. It’s for doctors to appropriately diagnose and treat TBIs. This knowledge empowers individuals to seek timely medical attention, advocate for their needs, and navigate the complexities of recovery.


Traumatic Brain Injury Classification

They can be classified according to two primary methods. They’re mechanisms of trauma and clinical severity. Understanding these classifications is essential. It’s for accurate diagnosis, treatment planning, and predicting potential outcomes.

Mechanism of Injury

This traumatic brain injury classification focuses on how it occurred. It reveals valuable information about the nature and potential severity of the damage.

Closed Head Injury 

This is the most common type of TBI. It occurs when the brain sustains damage without the skull being fractured or penetrated. Common causes include falls, sports traumas, and motor vehicle accidents. CHIs vary in severity. It ranges from mild concussions to more complex traumas disrupting brain function.

Open (Penetrating) Head Injury

This type of TBI involves a foreign object penetrating the skull and entering the brain. It causes direct damage to brain tissue. Common causes include gunshot wounds, falls with objects piercing the skull, and high-speed motor vehicle accidents. Open-head traumas are generally considered more severe than closed-head traumas. It’s due to the increased risk of infection, bleeding, and tissue damage.

Clinical Severity

This traumatic brain injuries classification system categorizes them based on their level of impairment, primarily assessed using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). The GCS is a standardized tool. It evaluates a patient’s level of consciousness. It’s done by assessing their eye-opening, verbal, and motor responses.

Mild TBI (GCS score 13-15)

This is the most common category of TBI, often referred to as “concussion.” Individuals may experience symptoms like headache, dizziness, confusion, and memory problems. Most mild TBIs resolve within days or weeks with proper rest and adherence to medical advice.

Moderate TBI (GCS score 9-12)

This category represents a more serious level of trauma. It often results in longer-lasting symptoms. They are memory difficulties, concentration problems, and speech or language impairments. Individuals may require hospitalization, rehabilitation, and ongoing medical support.

Severe TBI (GCS score 3-8)

This is the most critical category of TBI. It’s associated with significant brain damage and potentially life-threatening complications. Individuals may fall into a coma or experience severe cognitive and physical impairments. Those require extensive rehabilitation and long-term care.

It’s important to note that the traumatic brain injury classification is just one piece of information used to assess TBI severity. Other factors, such as imaging tests and neurological evaluations, also play a crucial role. They help make an accurate diagnosis and determine the most appropriate treatment.

Understanding these classification systems helps healthcare professionals tailor treatment strategies. It enhances the chances of recovery and improves long-term well-being.


Closed Head Injury vs Open Head Injury

Doctor reviewing brain CT scans on a lightbox

They are both classified as TBIs. But closed and open traumas differ significantly in their:

  • Characteristics.
  • Causes.
  • Treatment needs.
  • Potential outcomes.

Let’s take a closer look at the key considerations:

Closed head injury vs Open head injury 
Mechanism: These traumas occur when the brain sustains damage. It’s without the skull being fractured or penetrated. The force of impact causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. It leads to bruising, swelling, and tearing of brain tissue and blood vessels. Common causes include falls, sports traumas, and motor vehicle accidents. These ones involve a foreign object penetrating the skull and entering the brain. It causes direct damage to brain tissue and exposes it to the environment. Causes are gunshot wounds, falls with objects piercing the skull, and high-speed accidents.
Severity: CHIs can range in severity from mild concussions with temporary symptoms to severe traumas. According to closed head injury vs open head injury block, the first ones have long-term consequences. They are cognitive and physical impairments. Due to the direct damage to brain tissue and the increased risk of infection, open-head traumas are generally more severe. They often involve major complications. They are bleeding, swelling, and increased vulnerability to infections, significantly impacting long-term outcomes.
Symptoms: Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the trauma. But they include headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, memory, concentrating, and sleep issues. In severe cases, seizures, coma, and loss of consciousness can occur. OHI symptoms can include those seen in CHIs. There can be additional signs like drainage of fluids from the ear or nose, seizures, and coma.
Treatment: According to closed head injury vs open head injury block, the treatment of the first ones depends on the severity. Mild cases often require rest, monitoring, and medication for managing symptoms. More severe ones may require hospitalization, surgery, and intensive rehabilitation. It’s to address specific impairments. Open-head traumas often require immediate medical intervention. It includes surgery to stop bleeding, remove foreign objects, and address any damage. Following surgery, individuals may require extensive rehabilitation and long-term care. It’s to manage potential cognitive, physical, and emotional difficulties.
Recovery: Recovery from CHIs varies significantly depending on the severity of the trauma. Mild concussions typically resolve within days or weeks. While more severe cases need months or years of rehabilitation to regain function. Due to the extensive damage and potential complications, recovery from open-head traumas is often longer. And it’s more complex than CHIs. Individuals may require extensive rehabilitation and ongoing support.



In conclusion, TBIs encompass a spectrum of complexities and types. Understanding their types, mechanisms, and classifications empowers individuals and healthcare professionals to navigate this diverse landscape. By recognizing the distinct characteristics of different TBIs, we can enhance early diagnosis. It helps support recovery and promote well-being. However, for the proper diagnosis, one should opt for reliable tests and procedures. For this, consider our clinic. Contact us today and make an appointment for a healthy future. 



What is a Traumatic Brain Injury? 

A TBI is an injury to the brain caused by external force, impacting how the brain functions. It can range from mild concussions to severe injuries with long-term consequences.


How are TBIs Classified?

TBIs can be classified based on the mechanism of injury (closed head vs. open head) and clinical severity (mild, moderate, severe). For this, doctors use tools like the Glasgow Coma Scale.


What is the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Brain Injury?

Primary injury occurs from the initial impact. Secondary injury happens in the following hours/days. It’s due to factors like inflammation and swelling, further damaging brain tissue.


Can People Recover from a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Recovery from TBI varies greatly depending on the severity. Mild TBIs often heal within weeks. While severe injuries may require long-term rehabilitation and support. Early diagnosis and proper care are crucial for optimal recovery.


What is a closed head injury?

A closed head injury refers to trauma to the head without an open wound or fracture. It typically occurs due to a blow to the head, sudden acceleration or deceleration, or rapid movement, causing the brain to collide with the skull.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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