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Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

UBC PATHS Blog Post: Oct 22, 2023

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, violent jolt or blow to the head that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth, this disrupts normal brain function. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells. It is considered a mild TBI when there is a blow to the head but no evidence of a contusion or other structural damage. It is estimated that 160,000 Canadians will experience a brain injury each year.

Effects, Signs, and Symptoms

If you are observing someone who is suffering from a mild traumatic brain injury, you may notice clumsy movements, confusion, personality changes or a loss of consciousness, amongst other signs. As someone with a concussion, an individual might be suffering from a variety of symptoms, including (but not limited to) headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light and/or noise, or concentration problems. A TBI is classified as mild when structural imaging is normal, loss of consciousness is no more than 30 minutes and when alteration of mental state and posttraumatic amnesia is less than 24 hours.


Following a concussion, relative rest is usually the best method of recovery. This means limiting physical activities and mental activities to a bare minimum. Specifically, avoid activities that require vigorous movements or physical exertions that will provoke your symptoms. Mental activities that require heavy thinking and concentration should also be limited. Recovery is extremely important, after 1 brain injury you are at a 3 times greater risk for a second brain injury and eight times greater for other bodily injuries (Brain Injury Society Toronto).

Long Term Effects and Dementia

There are long term effects of mTBIs, especially related to repeated injuries. In the most severe cases repeated mild traumatic brain injuries can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a progressive and degenerative disease that is common within sports such as boxing and football. It is associated with dementia and shares common pathology to Alzheimers. Symptoms throughout life are similar to Parkinsosn and patients are often misdiagnosed. It has been suggested that people who experience TBI in early to midlife are two to four times more at risk of developing dementia in late life. This all highlights the importance of protecting yourself.

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