Brain injuries of any kind are profoundly traumatic events to experience. They can occur in a variety of ways, from a wide array of potential short- and long-term risks. According to recent statistics published by brain injury charity Headway, more than 350,000 patients are admitted to hospital each year with an acquired brain injury.
Meanwhile, a 2016 research report from the Centre for Mental Health revealed that traumatic brain injuries come at a significant cost to the country overall: billions a year, accounting for healthcare costs, premature mortalities, and lost income altogether. There is also a civil component, with the compensation arising from brain injury claims frequently entering six figures.
But brain injury as a topic can be a confusing one to navigate for someone unfamiliar with the various ways in which they can occur and present. Not only are there different kinds and severities of injury, but their causes can also differ widely. How best can we categorise the different types of brain injury?
Primary And Secondary Brain Injuries
First, it is helpful to categorise brain injuries in accordance to the manner in which symptoms present. There are two separate ways to do this, with regard to the nature of the injury and the timescale over which the injury presents itself.
First, we will discuss the latter, in the form of primary or secondary brain injuries. A primary brain injury occurs where damage takes place immediately. This describes the majority of all traumatic brain injuries, being the result of collisions, falls and other immediate accidents.
Secondary brain injuries, meanwhile, are injuries that develop over time. These can result from a variety of causes, from oxygen starvation to the progression of swelling and infection. Stroke victims are the most obvious sufferers of secondary brain injury.
Closed And Penetrating Brain Injuries
The other method of categorising brain injuries, mentioned earlier, is to distinguish between closed and penetrating brain injuries. Penetrating brain injuries are injuries suffered wherein the skull bone or cartilage protecting the brain is breached. This can occur via flying objects or severe blunt force trauma.
Closed brain injuries are injuries that occur within the cranial cavity, without breach or breakage. Blunt force trauma can cause closed brain injuries, where the brain collides with the walls of the cranium due to inertia. One particularly prescient example of this has emerged in sport, as football, rugby and American football have all seen growing instances of chronic traumatic encephalopathy caused by repeated head trauma.
Diffuse Axonal Injury
Lastly, it is important to differentiate between the specific mechanisms behind certain brain injuries. Swelling and bruising are key elements of a traumatic brain injury, and the most common examples of brain injury – however, there is another kind, called the diffuse axonal injury. The term describes the shearing of crucial nerve fibres that can occur when the brain moves in the cranial cavity, and can have comprehensive impacts in the form of multifarious symptoms.