Concussion vs TBI: What's the Difference?

concussion vs TBI

Concussion vs TBI: What’s the Difference?

A traumatic brain injury or TBI is the term used for an injury that occurs when the head suddenly and violently strikes an object, an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue, or when a blow, bump or jolt to the head disrupts the normal function of the brain.

TBIs are considered a major cause of death and disability. There were over 200,000 TBI-related hospitalizations in 2019, with adults aged 75 and older having the highest numbers of hospitalization and death.

A concussion is a form of brain injury which is often referred to as a mild brain injury. There is a common misconception that concussions are not serious injuries. There is an assumption that “seeing stars” is not a cause for concern. Although not considered severe injuries and symptoms of a concussion may disappear on their own, they should not be treated lightly. A percentage of patients experience long-term symptoms or post-concussion syndrome after an injury. 

In this blog, we are going to discuss symptoms and treatment for TBI, how these injuries are linked and what of them are harder to treat. Concussion vs TBI, learn everything here. 

What is a TBI?

Traumatic brain injuries can cause damage to brain cells which may temporarily disrupt normal brain function and lead to cognitive, physical, and sensory symptoms.

This type of injury most commonly occurs in slip-and-fall accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and assaults. The effects of a moderate to severe form of TBIs can be life-changing, hindering individuals from returning to their normal activities.

TBIs in young children sustained from catastrophic accidents or child abuse, such as shaken baby syndrome, may affect their development, regardless of the severity of the injury. On the other hand, symptoms in older adults may be overlooked or misdiagnosed due to an overlap with other medical conditions.

A person with a possible TBI must be seen by their healthcare provider immediately to identify neurological symptoms and avoid further complications.

Symptoms of a Moderate to Severe TBI

Symptoms of a TBI vary depending on the type and severity of the injury. Some catastrophic injuries’ symptoms are immediate and apparent. Head injuries, however, may have delayed symptoms. These symptoms could include:

  • Loss of memory
  • Profound confusion
  • Dilation in one or both pupils
  • Loss of coordination and poor balance
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of sensation in arms or legs
  • Slurred speech
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Combativeness or unusual behavior

What is a Concussion?

Concussions are very common among contact sports such as football, soccer, or rugby. According to the Brain Injury Research Institute, about 10% of contact sports athletes sustain a concussion yearly. These numbers are not only reserved for male athletes, but female soccer players also sustain more concussions than male football athletes.

A concussion is a type of head injury that occurs after a blow to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This can lead to a temporary loss of normal brain function.

Although not usually considered life-threatening, they must still be taken seriously.

Symptoms of Concussions

Concussion symptoms will depend on the severity of the injury and the person who sustained the injury. Loss of consciousness does not always accompany a concussion.

Individuals with suspected concussions are still urged to seek the medical advice of a healthcare professional to properly assess and diagnose the patient for a possible brain injury.

Concussion symptoms may include:

  • Headache or neck pain
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision or double vision
  • Sensitivity to lights or sounds
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of balance
  • Feeling dazed
  • Mood or personality changes

Diagnosing a TBI

Correctly diagnosing a concussion may be difficult because symptoms are vague and present themselves differently for each person. Since all concussions are considered traumatic brain injuries, they must be treated as such.

Getting a correct diagnosis of a brain injury is of paramount importance. Sustaining another severe blow to the head before the first injury has fully healed can cause serious complications.

The first step in diagnosing a potential brain injury is to have a medical exam. This usually includes a neurological exam, which assesses thinking, motor function, sensory function, coordination, eye movement, and reflexes.

A healthcare professional will ask you how the injury occurred and when, as well as conduct a physical examination and brain imaging tests. Concussions are often diagnosed based on the symptoms and the manner in which the injury occurred. You may also be given tests to check your memory and language skills. If the doctor is worried, you may be kept in the hospital for observation.

A common tool used to diagnose more severe cases of traumatic head injuries is called the Glasgow Coma Scale. This scale allows doctors to better understand the severity of the injury by measuring a patient’s responses to questions and requests, such as:

If your medical providers suspect that you have a TBI, they may require you to undergo a CT scan or MRI. Or in some cases, intracranial pressure monitoring is required to measure the amount of pressure in your skull.

Brain swelling or bleeding may require surgery or other forms of medical care. Thus, monitoring is crucial after an injury.


The best way to help your brain recover from a concussion is to get plenty of rest. This means both physical and mental rest. Your doctor will likely recommend this so you can heal properly.

It is recommended that people who have concussions take it easy for the first few days, limiting activities that are mentally taxing. However, complete rest (such as lying in a dark room) is not helpful and should be avoided.

It is best to avoid activities that require a lot of mental focus, such as playing video games, watching TV, doing schoolwork, reading, texting, or using a computer, during the first 48 hours after a concussion. These activities may make your symptoms worse.

Treatment may also include:

  • Refraining from alcohol – Alcohol consumption can negatively impact the recovery process after a traumatic brain injury. Liquor may interact badly with certain medications. It is important to speak to a doctor before consuming alcohol.
  • Avoid getting behind the wheel of a vehicle – A common post-concussion symptom is impaired balance, focus, and coordination. This can make activities that require steering, such as driving or riding a bike, more difficult.
  • Drink plenty of water – As previously mentioned, those who suffer from a mild head injury may experience some nausea or vomiting, which leads to dehydration.
  • Avoid strenuous activities – Patients should avoid strenuous activities while recovering from a minor head injury. Athletes should allow themselves to make a complete recovery before returning to their athletic activities to avoid Second Impact Syndrome.
  • Taking over-the-counter medication – A health care provider may prescribe a patient some over-the-counter medication to help them cope with their postconcussive symptoms.
  • Cognitive therapy – This is a type of therapy that can help patients who are struggling with changes in their thinking or memory after a concussion. A healthcare provider will likely give the patient a list of activities to avoid during the recovery process.
  • Vestibular rehabilitative therapy – This is an exercise-based program that can help patients who are struggling with dizziness and imbalance caused by vestibular disorders after a concussion. 

Contrary to popular belief, individuals suffering from a concussion do not need to be woken every few hours or need to keep awake for a long period of time. Sleep is crucial to recovery and gradual return to activities when suffering from a brain injury.

It is important to follow the doctor’s orders when it comes to concussion treatment, as each person’s brain heals differently. 

Help is Available

Are you or a loved one suffering from a traumatic brain injury? Are you in need of assistance? Help is available to you.

Do not hesitate to contact the California Brain Injury Help Center. We can help you get access to the best, cutting edge medical treatment, the right technology, and the legal aid you need. 

We are here for you. Call us at (866) 576-0936.

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