A severe traumatic brain injury is a type of injury that occurs when some sudden external force causes severe harm to the brain. A car accident or a fall from extreme height onto a solid surface, for instance, could cause a traumatic brain injury. Any brain injury can result in a variety of neurological symptoms, including unconsciousness or coma, confusion, sensory disorders, difficulty forming or understanding speech, or any of a range of other problems. Severity of symptoms is generally used to determine the severity of the injury. An individual suffering from a severe traumatic brain injury is generally able to respond very little to external stimuli and often suffers from a very limited ability to move or speak.
The Glasgow Coma Scale, or GCS, is the most common measurement scale used to judge the severity of a traumatic brain injury shortly after the trauma. Patients are rated on a scale from one to four based on their ability to open their eyes in response to stimuli, a scale of one to five based on their ability to produce sounds or speech, and a scale of one to six based on their motor abilities. The totals of each category are added together. An individual with a rating of three, then, gives no response to stimuli and no indication of consciousness. A rating between three and eight indicates severe traumatic brain injury, while a higher rating indicates that the brain injury is likely less severe.
Even if one does manage a full return to consciousness after a severe traumatic brain injury, the long-term effects of the injury can be severely debilitating. One may suffer from a variety of cognitive, linguistic, sensory, motor, and other disabilities long after the injury occurred. Some effects may last for one's entire lifetime while others may improve over time. In some cases, intensive therapy can allow one to find ways to cope with the neurological disorders that can result from a severe traumatic brain injury.
There are a variety of different measures that one can take that can greatly diminish the risk of severe traumatic brain injury. The use of seat belts and air bags, for instance, can greatly reduce the risk of serious injuries from car crashes. Wearing protective gear, particularly helmets, during contact sports such as American football can also reduce the risk of severe traumatic brain injury.