Understanding Brain Injury

Headway supports people with all forms of acquired brain injury (ABI). Acquired brain injury covers all situations in which brain injury has occurred since birth. There are two categories of brain injury:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Non-traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

This is an injury to the brain caused by a sudden trauma to the head (head injury). There are many possible causes, including road traffic accidents, assaults, falls and accidents at home or at work.


There are three types:

  • Closed: This is the most common type. It involves a blow to the head where there is no open wound.
  • Open: This is less common and involves damage caused by an open wound where the brain is exposed, or a penetrating wound.
  • Crushing: This is the least common type and involves the head being crushed between two objects.

The effects of traumatic brain injury on brain function

First of all, there can be damage to the nerve fibres deep inside the centre of the brain. This part of the brain normally keeps a person conscious and alert, so the most obvious sign of damage to this area is the occurrence of a coma.

There can also be damage to the sides of the brain. Damage to one side usually results in weakness in limbs on the opposite side of the body. Additionally, injury to the left side of the brain tends to cause speech and language impediments.

Whilst the most visible signs of brain injury are, for example, coma, weaknesses in arms & legs and speech impairment; there are also many possible “hidden” or psychological symptoms. These include changes to personality, reasoning and memory. For example, damage to the front part of the brain behind the forehead can result in behavioural problems such as loss of insight and self-restraint.

Non-traumatic brain injury

This arises as the result of a tumour, stroke, brain haemorrhage or encephalitis, to name a few. The symptoms are often similar to those caused by a traumatic brain injury.

More information about brain injury can be found here: Brain Injury Information at Headway UK