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What Happens to the Brain?

What happens to the brain with concussion / TBI and whiplash?


The brain is normally protected by the bony skull and insulated from jarring by fluid that cushions the brain during movement. When the head or body experiences any sudden movement (i.e. whiplash) brain movement can overcome the fluid cushion and be stretched, damaging nerves and become bruised by bumping into the inside of the skull. These tissue injuries disturb the transmission of nerve signals causing pain, dysfunction and symptoms.

Some common ways to get a concussion / TBI are from car accidents that result in whiplash, sports injuries and falls. Most people sustaining a mild concussion, with appropriate care will generally recover fully within weeks or months. Recovery may be slower for older adults, young children and teens. More serious concussions or repeated concussions often take longer to recover and may lead to long-lasting problems with thinking, communicating, learning and movement.

Some symptoms may appear right away, while other symptoms may not appear for days or even months after the injury. Some symptoms may not show up until the person begins to resume their everyday activities, and when additional demands are placed upon themselves.


Sometimes people may be unwilling to admit that they are having a problem or may not recognize a problem. They can become angry, frustrated and/or confused about what is happening to them. They may think they are okay even though they are behaving differently. It is important that family members and others acquainted with the person assist in pointing out changes in symptoms and behavior to the doctor.

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