Definitions of Brain Injury

There are many different definitions of Acquired Brain Injury - the “acquired” bit refers to any damage to the brain that occurs after birth, and is meant to differentiate brain injury from congenital disabilities like intellectual disability - and, doubtless, none of them are perfect in, for example, what conditions or diseases they include or exclude.

Brain Injury Australia's Preferred Definition of Brain Injury

Brain Injury Australia has settled on the definition provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Community Services Data Dictionary, the “authoritative source of information about endorsed national metadata standards for the community services sectors, which "provides the basis for consistent national collection and reporting” and one “endorsed by the Standing Council on Community and Disability Services Advisory Council’s Research, Evaluation and Data Working Group.”

Find out more.

What is Brain Injury?

Brain Injury is the “multiple disabilities arising from damage to the brain acquired after birth. It results in deterioration in cognitive, physical, emotional or independent functioning. It can be as a result of accidents, stroke, brain tumours, infection, poisoning, lack of oxygen, degenerative neurological disease etc.”The National Community Services Data Dictionary (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra, 2012)

Common Causes of Brain Injury

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    Traumatic Brain Injury occurs as the result of some external force being applied to the brain.

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    Stroke usually occurs as the result of a haemorrhage or blockage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the various regions of the brain.

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    Tumours cause damage to the surrounding brain tissue and structures as they grow within the brain.

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    Bacterial or viral infections can lead to an inflammation of the brain covering (meningitis) or the brain tissue itself (encephalitis).

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    Alcohol acts as a toxin and the long term misuse of alcohol can cause damage to brain tissue.

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    Hypoxia/anoxia refers to the reduced or complete stopping of the flow of oxygen to the brain leading to tissue damage, and can be caused by failed hangings, near drowning, or overdoses.

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    Degenerative Neurological Diseases

    Conditions including Huntingdon’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease are caused by abnormal changes to brain cells in particular regions of the brain.

What Brain Injury is Not...

Brain Injury is not Ageing, a Disease, a Mental Illness, or an Intellectual Disability

Brain Injury is a “Hidden Disability”

The physical disabilities following brain injury can be quite easy to see, but disabilities that affect thinking, emotion and behavior can be far harder to recognize.

For this reason, brain injury is sometimes called a “hidden disability.”

Brain Injury Australia is committed to promoting increased awareness of brain injury within Australia.

Visit our Education Campaign pages.

Adapted with permission by Paul Bullen, Management Alternatives Pty Ltd

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