You may think Traumatic Brain Injury seems out of place as a topic in VirTra’s Mental Illness V-VICTA™ curriculum , but it is actually a big risk factor for conditions such as neurocognitive disorders, substance abuse and more. Traumatic Brain Injuries, commonly shortened to “TBI,” can be life threatening on their own and are a condition that officers must be aware of.
What is a TBI?
A TBI is caused by a jolt to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts normal function of the brain. Depending on the severity of the injury, an individual may experience a brief change in mental status to an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia.
TBI can be caused by head trauma sustained during sports such as football or baseball, falling (especially in young children and the elderly), and active duty combat. It is diagnosed with thorough clinical and physical exams along with review of their cognitive ability before and after the event.
What are the after-effects?
Some after-effects include post-concussion syndrome and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Post-concussion syndrome occurs when concussion symptoms last much longer than usual – months or even years following the trauma. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a neurodegenerative disorder that is only diagnosed after death, but results from repetitive injury to the brain.
Signs, Symptoms & Behaviors
TBI symptoms can appear as physical, cognitive and emotional issues. Some of these include:
Physical: headaches, dizziness, sleep problems, fatigue, light sensitivity
Cognitive: difficulty concentrating, gaps in memory, slowed thinking, difficulty finding words
Emotional: Irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, personality changes
If the TBI includes frontal lobe injuries, the subject may experience aggression and difficulty controlling impulses and inhibition. There is a link between TBI and criminal activity that shows 60.3% of adults who have committed a crime have screened positive for TBI (2014).
An individual with TBI can have varying behaviors. The kind that law enforcement usually responds to are associated with aggression and impulse control. If the signs and symptoms are not recognized during interaction, they can impede proper communication.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Surveillance Report of Traumatic Brain Injury-related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths—United States, 2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders. (2015). Traumatic Brain Injury: Hope Through Research. NINDS, Publication date September 2015. NIH Publication No. 15-2478
- Kocka, A., & Gagnon, J. (2014). Definition of Impulsivity and Related Terms Following Traumatic Brain Injury: A Review of the Different Concepts and Measures Used to Assess Impulsivity, Disinhibition and other Related Concepts. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 4(4), 352–370.