An acquired brain injury is brain damage caused by events after birth, rather than as part of a genetic or congenital disorder. These include strokes, brain illness and other brain injuries. They differ from degenerative brain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Some of the effects that a brain injury can have include:

  • Cognitive effects, like memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor planning and judgment skills, language difficulties, and a lack of problem-solving skills
  • Sensory effects, like altered visual or spatial perception, or reduced sense of touch, vision or hearing
  • Emotional effects, like being impulsive, risky behavior, depression, anxiety, aggression or paranoia
  • Physical effects, like severe headaches, seizures, poor coordination and balance, slurred speech, and being unable to move

Brain injuries can be traumatic, caused by an external force, or non-traumatic, caused by internal events. A blow to the head or a penetrating head injury most often happens during falls, motor vehicle accidents, abuse or assault, and being struck by or against something. Internal events that cause brain injury include stroke, infection, or anoxia and hypoxia.
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Identifying Brain Injury

Identifying brain injury can occur immediately following an injury or several days, weeks or months after. In the event of a life-threatening brain injury, identifying a brain injury early can save lives.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of a brain injury can be subtle. Symptoms may even be missed as people "look normal" or "feel fine." Know the signs and symptoms, and take brain injury seriously.
If someone's head or body has been hit or jolted, call 911 or go to the emergency room if they are experiencing:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Blood or clear fluid draining from nose or ears
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in limbs
  • Trouble walking
  • Slurred speech or vision issues
  • Seizure

Continue to monitor for signs and symptoms over the next few weeks and months, even if you don't observe any immediately. See a doctor if you notice any of these changes:

  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Changes in work or school performance
  • Delayed thinking and understanding
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Sleep disturbances or fatigue
  • Ongoing headaches or neck pain
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Depression or anxiety

HHS has publications you can download or order to help you remember these signs and symptoms, or to share with others. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of a brain injury at the CDC's HEADS UP website or Brainline.org, which also has information about various aspects of life after brain injury.

Prevention Resources

Provider Resources

  • TexasHealthSteps.com online Provider Education provides free continuing education credits on a variety of topics, including brain injury, to physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, dentists and others.
  • The Period of PURPLE Crying is a program designed to prevent shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma by helping parents of new babies understand the normal crying curve and the dangers of shaking a baby.
  • The CDC’s HEADS UP to Health Care Providers has free information and training on identifying and treating concussions, as well as Return-to-Learn and Return-to-Play protocols to help manage a child’s return to school and sports.

General Resources

  • The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ Prevention and Early Intervention division focuses on stopping abuse and neglect before it happens. Find a full list of PEI programs here, including:
    • HelpandHope.org, a website for parents on parenting and preventing childhood injury. The Child Safety page includes information on gun safety, helmets, safe sleep and car safety. The website also includes an entire section on Water Safety with helpful videos and information to prevent drowning.
    • Texas Home Visiting, a free program that provides trained home visitors for parents who are expecting a child or have a child who has not started kindergarten yet. Contact your local Home Visiting Program to see if you could benefit from participating in the program.
  • The CDC Child Safety and Injury Prevention website includes information on fall prevention, drowning prevention and road traffic safety. In addition, the Child Passenger Safety page helps parents and caregivers select and properly install child safety seats.
  • Safe Kids Worldwide has information on many child safety topics such as child passenger safety, home safety and gun safety. You can also connect with local Safe Kids coalitions to learn more or get involved.
  • The CDC’s HEADS UP website has free information and training on concussions for parents, coaches, sports officials and athletes. It also includes a section on Helmet Safety where you can learn about the various types of helmets needed for different activities and how to make sure they are properly fitted.
  • The Children’s Safety Network is another helpful website with information on a variety of child safety and injury prevention topics.