Causes of a Brain Injury


The brain is somewhat mobile within the spiny interior of the skull. Under normal circumstances the delicate brain is protected from contact with the spiny contours of the skull. This protective barrier is known as cerebrospinal fluid. It surrounds the brain, and under normal circumstances, cushions the brain from contact with its hard, spiny shell.

However, when the head is subjected to violent forces, such as those exerted in car accidents or as a result of violent shaking or a forceful fall the brain may sustain permanent damage. Such damage results from the delicate brain being forcibly rotated and battered within the spiny skull, also known as, the brain vault. During such episodes brain tissue is ripped, torn, stretched, battered and bruised. Such battering is followed by bleeding, swelling and bruising of brain tissue. Sometimes the brain can recover from such injuries without any apparent consequences. In other cases the resultant difficulties can last a lifetime.

An injury to the brain is complex. It can cause physical, cognitive, social, and vocational changes that affect an individual, for a short period of time, or permanently. In many cases recovery becomes a lifelong process of adjustments and accommodations for the individual and the family.

Brain damage can result from a variety of different sources. Surgery, strokes, tumours, disease, toxins, near drowning and electric shock can all result in a brain injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Results from damage to brain tissue caused by an external force. Leading causes of TBI are motor vehicle accidents, acts of violence, falls, sports and recreational injuries and blows to the head. TBI can occur without any outward physical evidence of injury or trauma. Examples include, whiplash from a road traffic accident and shaken babies.

Memory mood and fatigue are common complaints of brain injury patients. Intellectual dullness and mental rigidity are obvious signs of brain injury. Personality changes are common, and rapid mood swings alternate with waxing and waning energy levels. Taken individually, such impairments might not amount to much. However, such impairments usually appear in groups or clusters. In many cases the impairments are widespread and disrupt many brain systems. The overall effect can be profoundly disabling.

Fractures to the skull

Trauma causing a fracture to the skull may push bone into the brain causing tissue damage. The force may also cause shock waves which are sent through the brain tissue.


If the head strikes an object, this may cause bruising (contusion). In severe whiplash cases when the head comes to a complete stop, the brain may continue it’s movement. As the frontal lobe (front part of the brain) and temporal lobe (rear part of the brain) strikes the interior of the skull, this may cause bruising and bleeding. Destructive shockwaves are also sent through brain tissue.

When the head is subject to severe twisting in whiplash type injuries, axonal fibres can become stretched and damaged. This mainly occurs towards the centre of the brain. This is known as a diffuse axonal injury.


A bleed of the brain tissue blood vessels can occur days after trauma. A blood clot (haemorrhage) may develop causing pressure on the brain and leading to further indirect trauma. The brain is surrounded by the skull which is a hard surface with no flexibility. A bleed can cause increased pressure inside the skull and swelling. As the tissue swells it has nowhere to go. This results in the veins supplying blood to the brain becoming squashed. Intracranial pressure can be relieved by medication or in severe cases by a hole in the skull to drain pressure.

Types of blood clots include a sub dural haematoma which is a clot developing between the dura and the arachnoid. Bleeding occurring between the arachnoid and the pia is called a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Results from damage to the brain caused by strokes, tumours, anoxia, hypoxia, toxins, degenerative diseases, near drowning and/or other conditions not necessarily caused by an external force.

Cerebral hypoxia

Refers to a condition in which there is a decrease of oxygen supply to the brain even though there is adequate blood flow. Drowning, choking, suffocation, cardiac arrest, head trauma and carbon monoxide poisoning can all cause cerebral hypoxia. During surgery complications with general anaesthesia can create conditions that can lead to cerebral hypoxia. In certain circumstances where hypoxia has been caused during surgery or child birth, there may be a claim for clinical negligence.

Symptoms of mild cerebral hypoxia include inattentiveness, poor judgment, memory loss, and a decrease in motor coordination. Brain cells are extremely sensitive to oxygen deprivation and can begin to die within five minutes after oxygen supply has been cut off. When hypoxia lasts for longer periods of time, it can cause coma, seizures, and even brain death. In brain death, there is no measurable activity in the brain, although cardiovascular function is preserved. Life support is required for respiration

Brain injuries can result from a wide variety of causes. Click on the links below for more information on these areas

To contact a member of the Head Injury team please call us on: 0800 073 0988 or Email:

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