Fact Sheet 1
WHAT IS IT AND HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?
Brain injury is also known as: Brain Injury Can Have Serious Effects
Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) As the brain is involved in just about everything
Head Injury we do, injury to the brain can have a very wide
range of effects.
BRAIN INJURY: A DEFINITION The effects will vary from one person to
another, depending on the exact nature of the
Brain injury can happen to anyone at any time.
brain injury and its severity. They can include
It is defined as a loss of brain function. Brain
physical effects (eg on movement, vision,
injury is caused either by sustaining an injury to
touch or taste), cognitive effects (eg on
the head or by having an illness that causes
thinking processes such as memory and
concentration) and effects on behaviour (eg
self-control, motivation etc).
It can be caused by:
Accidents A person with a brain injury often looks
Road Traffic accident
well and fully recovered. However the
Sport / work related accident
difficulties they face are caused by
damage to the person’s brain function.
You may see effects such as:
Drinking too much alcohol Poor memory
Overuse of prescribed drugs Easily distracted, poor concentration
Use of illegal drugs
Difficulty dealing with more than one
Stroke thing at a time
Rupture of a blood vessel in the
brain Greatly reduced stamina – tires easily
Blockage of blood supply to the brain Hypersensitivity to crowds, light, noise
Cancerous or non-cancerous Emotional reactions may be
inappropriate and exaggerated
Meningitis Works and thinks at a slower pace
Encephalitis especially when learning something new
Can appear poorly motivated
Lack of Oxygen
Near drowning Has a limited insight into own behaviour
Severe asthma attack and ability
Restricted movement, poor balance or
Reference: Powell, T. (1994) Head Injury: A Practical Guide. Winslow Press.
Fact Sheet 2
CHANGES THAT MAY RESULT FROM A BRAIN INJURY
Brain Injury can result in a wide
range of changes to a person’s
behaviour, their sensitivity to their
The person may not believe they
surroundings and their thinking
capabilities. have changed.
Example: They may remember a lot
Some changes are permanent about what they used to do and believe
Some changes are temporary they can still do everything. Even when
tests confirm they have lost the skills,
they might not believe it is true and
Which changes are blame others for the difficulties.
The person may have difficulty
When a person sustains a brain injury it is taking others needs into
impossible to predict how much they will consideration
recover and how long it will take. There is Example: Becoming annoyed and
no formula to tell you which results are aggressive if they are not served
permanent and which are temporary. immediately on entering a shop or a
Advances in medical technology mean
that people who, in the past would have The person may become very
died from their brain injury, are now talkative
surviving. Example: Finding it difficult to stay
focused on one point and jumping from
Generally, the more serious the injury, the
one thing to the next in a conversation.
greater the impact is on the person and
the more difficult the rehabilitation
The person may become quieter
Example: Being less interested in
Although some people do not recover conversation or have difficulty finding
completely, some do and those who do words.
not can continue to make progress for
many years. The person may constantly rush into
things and act impulsively
Example: They may take on a DIY job
without thinking it through in terms of the
skills they need how much time it will
take or how much it will cost.
Personality Changes – Thinking & Learning
The person may have less control Memory.
over emotions Short term memory problems will lead to
Example: Laughing or crying at the ‘forgetting’ everyday things, for example a
slightest suggestion of joy or sadness. name, what you went into a shop for or
what you have just been taught. Loss of
The person may make inappropriate long term memory may mean that you
sexual advances. don’t remember events that happened
This may lead to varying degrees of long ago.
annoyance of others or simply very
embarrassing situations where
friendships and trusts are lost. There may be difficulty focusing on one
task at a time, may switch from one thing
to another a lot and can be easily
The person may be quick to anger
distracted by noise or movements in the
Example: A loud noise or someone
disagreeing with them may trigger an
outburst of aggression that seems to be Problem solving and decision making.
out of character or beyond the control of The person may have difficulty
the individual. understanding the effects of their actions
and make the same mistake repeatedly,
not able to understand what is causing
Physical Changes the problem.
Loss of sight or hearing. Understanding things.
This may be complete or partial loss. The person may have difficulty taking
phone messages accurately or reading
Reduced control of movement things.
The person’s ability to do some
movements may be reduced or lost, due Sequencing.
to paralysis of the muscle (motor loss) Getting all the steps in the right order to
or poor awareness of the movement cook a meal or change a tyre.
Saying what they mean.
Speech difficulties The person may have trouble finding the
The person may speak or sound right words, using the right body language
differently. It may be difficult to make or getting to the point
out what they are trying to say
Slow to respond.
Fatigue. It may take longer than usual to
understand and respond to what is going
The person may get tired very quickly
on, such as, getting a joke or just replying
and require several rests throughout the
to a request.
Reference: www.tbiguide.com . Powell, T. (1996) Head Injury: A Practical Guide. Winslow Press.
Fact Sheet 3
USE OF ALCOHOL OR DRUGS AFTER A BRAIN INJURY
Any type of substance, whether alcohol or drugs, can affect brain
functioning for all individuals, whether they have had a brain injury
or not. For those who have had brain injuries the effects of alcohol
and drugs are magnified
Impact of drugs or alcohol on recovery
People who begin or continue to use Brain injuries can cause problems in
alcohol or drugs after a brain injury balance, walking or talking that
don’t recover as quickly or as worsen when using alcohol or drugs.
completely. People whose brain injury has
Due to lost brain cells in an injury, caused difficulties with balance,
the remaining cells must work harder movement and speech, will further
for the person to do the same reduce ability in these areas when
activities as they did before the they take alcohol and drugs
injury. If the remaining cells are
affected by alcohol or drugs they will After a brain injury, drinking alcohol
not be able to take over the work of or using drugs can cause a seizure.
the dead cells. Some people with a brain injury have
an increased risk of seizures. Alcohol
After a brain injury alcohol and other and other drugs increase the
drugs have a more powerful effect. chances that even those at the lower
The impact of drinking or use of level of risk will have a seizure.
illegal drugs may have a quicker and
more exaggerated impact than People who use alcohol or drugs
before. after a brain injury are more likely to
have another brain injury.
People with brain injury are more A person who has difficulty thinking
likely to feel low or depressed. clearly, walking or reacting quickly
Drinking alcohol (a depressant), or due to their brain injury is 3 times
taking drugs, makes this problem more likely to have another injury.
worse. People who use alcohol or drugs
have an even higher risk of another
Reference: BIAUSA.org Family Guide to the Use of Alcohol and other substances after Brain Injury
Fact Sheet 4
DRIVING AFTER BRAIN INJURY
Driving is quite a complex activity. You What do you need to do if you have had a
may need to be able to: brain injury and want to drive?
React quickly By law you must:
Make quick decisions
Inform the Driving Vehicles Licensing
Remember road rules Northern Ireland (DVLNI) that you had a
Have good visual skills brain injury
Inform your insurance company you had
Physically operate the car
a brain injury – or you will not be
These skills can be affected by a brain Stop driving until you have discussed it
injury with your G.P.
If you are learning to drive for the first
Difficulties with driving can include: time you must tell the DVLNI and the
Feeling less confident insurance company you had a brain
Tiring quickly when driving injury
Difficult to manage busy traffic
Inability to react as quickly in an You may want to contact Disability Action,
emergency as you did before who provide special driving assessments,
your brain injury give lessons and advice on adapting a car to
Problems positioning the car suit you.
correctly on the road.
Sometimes not seeing other What happens next?
cars or pedestrians The DVLNI will send a medical form for
Difficulty turning the steering your GP to fill in
wheel with both hands The DVLNI may need other information
Difficulty operating the brake from your GP or hospital consultant
The DVLNI will decide:-
A. If necessary to withdraw your licence
REMEMBER!! B. If you need to take a special driving
Alcohol will affect you more than before your assessment with Disability Action
brain injury C. To make your licence valid for a limited
Check if your medication affects your driving Period
Tiredness can be a problem that affects D. To allow you to keep your full licence
DO NOT DRINK & DRIVE DVLNI General Enquiries 028 7034 1469
Disability Action 028 9029 7880
Reference: DVLNI, Down Lisburn Community Brain Injury Team
Fact Sheet 5
The Cedar Foundation Brain Injury Services
Vocational Rehabilitation GENERAL ENQUIRIES
Telephone 028 9061 2424
Participants benefit from support and specialist training to
increase personal choices through achieving goals of Vocational Rehabilitation
employment, voluntary work and education after Brain
Telephone 028 2565 9111
The service is aimed at people who are over 16 years email@example.com
with an acquired Brain Injury and are motivated to
achieve vocational goals. The programme is time-limited WESTERN
and flexible to suit individual need. Telephone 028 7136 0136 (Foyle)
Or 028 6632 4400 (Sperrin Lakeland)
The programme offers training in Employability Skills and firstname.lastname@example.org
Preparation for Work in-house. It supports people to try
out work tasters, sourcing voluntary work roles or SOUTHERN
accessing paid employment. It also assists people to Telephone 028 3026 3791
gain recognised qualifications through attendance at local email@example.com
colleges and training organisations.
Telephone 028 9262 9071
Floating Support firstname.lastname@example.org
This service provides support to individuals living in their
own homes to carry out their housing responsibilities as BELFAST
independently as possible and maintain their tenancy. Telephone 028 9061 2424
A plan is agreed with each individual for up to 6 hours
support per week and typically lasts for 6 – 9 months. It
aims to provide assistance to carry out tenancy Floating Support
responsibilities, have good home safety routines, budget
effectively and source information and advice relevant to Telephone 028 9061 2424
effective housing management and living independently. email@example.com
The Cedar Foundation works closely with the local
Community Brain Injury Teams and other professionals
in the services it provides.
This project is part financed by the European Social Fund and the Department for Employment and Learning