Traumatic Brain Injury


Information provided by the CogSMART program of the VA San Diego Healthcare System


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain resulting in impaired physical, mental, emotional, and/or behavioral functioning.

Common causes of TBI include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Explosive blasts
  • Falls
  • Direct blows to the head
  • Sports-related injuries

What are the common symptoms of TBI?

The most common symptoms after head injury are known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS).
These symptoms include:

Physical Complaints

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Visual disturbances
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Poor balance

Mental Changes

  • Poor concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Poor judgment
  • Impulsivity
  • Slowed performance

Emotional Concerns

  • Depression
  • Anger outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Personal changes
  • Anxiety

These symptoms are part of the normal recovery process and are not signs of permanent brain damage or medical complications. Most patients with PCS recover completely in 3 to 6 months; however, studies have shown that veterans suffering from combat-related TBI can experience symptoms for up to 24 months due to the extreme nature of their trauma.

How serious is TBI?

The severity of TBI can range from a brief change in mental status and consciousness (mild) to an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia (severe). The length of time that a person is unconscious is one way to measure the severity of the injury. If you did not lose consciousness at all or if you were unconscious for less than 30 minutes, your injury was most likely mild. If you were unconscious for more than 30 minutes but less than 6 hours, your injuries were probably moderate. A vast majority (~80%) of TBI cases are classified as mild, with emergency room visits for mild TBI (MTBI) topping one million each year. Mild TBI is extremely difficult to diagnose as the physical signs of injury (e.g. skull fracture) may not be apparent and internal injuries may not be evident via neuroimaging exams. Therefore, accurate diagnosis of TBI is heavily dependent on the proper evaluation by a medical professional.

For more information on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) please visit:


Resources for Traumatic Brain Injury


San Diego VA Healthcare System
Please contact your Primary Care Provider or member of the OEF/OIF Care Team for a referral for screening and services available at the San Diego VA.
Primary Care Line:
(858) 552-7475

OEF/OIF Care Team Contacts:

Mission Valley & Chula Vista:
Bridget Salzman, MSW
(619) 400-5271

La Jolla:
Rikka Bonnette, LCSW
(858) 642-3615

Patrick O’Shea, MSW
(760) 643-2079

American Veterans with Brain Injuries

(AVBI) was organized in 2004 as a grassroots effort whose mission is to offer support to the families of American Service members and Veterans who have suffered brain injuries. went live on the Internet in 2006 to provide a web based peer support network and information resource. In January 2009, in order to expand support services and programs specifically designed for these veterans and their family members, American Veterans with Brain Injuries, Inc. was incorporated as a Not for Profit organization.

Brain Injury Association of America
1608 Spring Hill Road Suite 110
Vienna, VA 22182

The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is the voice of brain injury. They are dedicated to increasing access to quality health care and raising awareness and understanding of brain injury through advocacy, education and research.
(866) 611-2272 was created and sponsored by the Newsome Law Firm as a knowledge-base for brain injury and spinal cord injury survivors to help answer questions. While the site is relatively new, we hope to eventually have answers and information about all of the most frequently asked questions and important issues facing survivors.

Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC)
Naval Medical Center San Diego
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (42-DGH)
34730 Bob Wilson Drive, Suite 201
San Diego, CA 92134-3201
(619) 532-5088 (Clinic Referral Questions)
(619) 532-5508 (Program Management)

The mission of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) is to serve active duty military, their beneficiaries, and veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) through state-of-the-art clinical care, innovative clinical research initiatives and educational programs.

San Diego Brain Injury Foundation
P.O. Box 84601
San Diego, CA 92138
(619) 294-6541

The San Diego Brain Injury Foundation is proud to offer support for military personnel and their families. The services that the Foundation provides offer a supportive and confidential environment for brain injury survivors and their families.

Southern Caregiver Resource Center
3675 Ruffin Road, Suite 230
San Diego, CA 92123
(858) 268-4432

Provides comprehensive support services to family caregivers. Offers information and referral, counseling, support groups, long-term care planning and access to community resources, respite care in the home and at other locations, financial and legal consultation, and education and training to family caregivers of adults with traumatic brain injuries. Offers short-term and long-term case management services.