Veteran's Health Library Menu

Health Encyclopedia

What Is Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (Concussion)?

A mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a sudden jolt to your head that temporarily changes the way your brain works. It is also called a concussion. This could be caused by a blow to your head, a blast, or a sudden and severe movement of your head that bounces your brain inside your skull. For people in the military who are deployed, blast injuries are a common cause of mild TBIs. Falls, fights, sports, and motor vehicle accidents are other common causes of mTBI before, during, and after deployment.

In addition to mTBI, there are two other types: moderate TBI and severe TBI. Your healthcare provider will decide if your TBI is mild, moderate, or severe at the time of the injury. Sometimes the symptoms of a mild TBI are much like those of a more severe TBI. Because every brain is different, it can be hard to predict exactly what symptoms you will experience, and what your specific recovery will be like.

Diagnosing mTBI

Most TBIs are mild. If you have mTBI, you might be knocked out for a short time or you might just feel stunned for a while. The Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Affairs are aware of the symptoms of mTBI. They may evaluate you to see if you have had an mTBI before you are deployed, during deployment, or after you come home.

Signs of an mTBI may not show up on brain scans or X-rays. Because of this, the diagnosis may be based on one or more of these findings:

  • Having mental changes  up to 24 hours after a jolt to the head

  • Having memory problems  up to 24 hours after a jolt to the head

  • Having loss of consciousness (getting knocked out) for 30 minutes or less after a jolt to the head

Symptoms of mTBI

Having an mTBI can change your brain in many ways. It can change the way you think, feel, or act. The kind of symptoms you have depends on the location and extent that your brain is affected. Common symptoms of mTBI can occur right away or awhile after the injury. Early symptoms may include:

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Not being sure of where you are

  • Memory problems

  • Being sick to your stomach

  • Vomiting

Later symptoms of mTBI may include:

  • Having frequent headaches

  • Feeling dizzy or off-balanced

  • Not being able to concentrate or pay attention

  • Feeling tired most of the time

  • Getting angry and irritated easily

  • Being bothered by bright light or loud noise

  • Having trouble focusing your eyes

  • Hearing ringing in your ears

  • Feeling anxious and depressed

Recovering from mTBI

Most people recover completely from mTBI, but it may take days, weeks, or months. For some, symptoms may last even longer. If you have had more than one TBI, your recovery may take longer. Also, other co-existing health problems may delay healing. Every brain is different, so your recovery time may vary from others with a similar injury. 

You can expect to have some good days and some bad days. It is important to give your brain time to recover and not push yourself too hard. Trying to “tough it out” can make your symptoms worse; however, complete rest in the weeks to months following injury is not recommended either. The best way to recover is to discuss symptoms with your TBI provider, as well as your family. Work closely with your healthcare provider and/or therapist to help you find the right amount of activity and rest to give your brain the best opportunity to heal. They can help you get back to work and participate in the activities you enjoy.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 10/1/2020
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
Disclaimer - Opens 'Disclaimer' in Dialog Window | Help | About Veterans Health Library