CogniFit's Science blog: What Qualifies As A Brain Injury?

What Qualifies As A Brain Injury?

Junior Seau is getting all of the attention after his suicide last month. Many people wonder if this has occurred because of a brain injury or injuries that happened when he played pro football.

Mike Webster was really the first pro football player to publically suffer from erratic behavior attributed to head injuries over a 17 year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Still, you do not have to play a violent sport to suffer from brain injuries. Brain injury or brain damage is the degeneration or destruction of brain cells. It may occur as a result of a wide variety of conditions, injuries, or illnesses:

1. Potential causes of widespread brain damage include shortage of oxygen, infection, poisoning, and neurological illness.

2. Common causes of localized or focal brain injury include stroke, aneurysm, traumatic brain injury, or neurological illness. The effect and extent of brain injury is often evaluated by neurological examination, neuropsychological assessment, and neuroimaging.

Brain damage does not always lead to long-term disability or impairment, although the extent and location of damage both have a huge effect on the possible result. In Junior Seau's case the people around him had no idea he was suffering.

In Mike Webster's case he suffered from many health problems and died of a heart attack at 50 years of age.

The effects of brain damage or injury can vary widely, and depend on several factors, for example the location, severity, and type of injury. Every person has a unique injury, so they will develop any number of symptoms, ranging from the mild to the severe.

Whatever the cause, brain injury affects everyone in different ways. Some of the effects include:

Sensory and physical problems 

- Loss of balance and dizziness
- Persistent headaches
- Vomiting or nausea
- Visual disturbances such as double vision, blurred vision, and distaste for bright lights
- Being easily disturbed by loud sound/noise

Sleep disturbances

- Fatigue
- Altered sleep patterns
- Changes in mood and behavior
- Being easily angered or irritable
- Feeling impatient or frustrated
- Restlessness
- Self-control problems and impulsivity
- Feeling tearful, anxious, or depressed

Cognitive problems

- Memory problems
- Difficulties with concentration and attention
- Difficulties with solving problems
- Taking longer periods of time to think

The problems that result from brain damage or injury may be oblivious to other people such as the case of Junior Seau. Due to this, the problem is often called a 'hidden disability'. However, brain injury can completely change the life of a person with the condition as well as the lives of those around them as seen in Mike Webster.