Rehabilitation for Post-Traumatic Brain Injury


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden injury causes damage to your brain. A "closed head injury" may cause brain damage if something hits your head hard but doesn’t break through your skull. A "penetrating head injury" is brain damage that occurs when an object breaks through your skull and enters your brain.

Symptoms that may occur after TBI may include headaches, dizziness, confusion, convulsions, loss of coordination, slurred speech, poor concentration, memory problems, and personality changes. For people younger than 75, half of all TBIs are caused by traffic accidents. For people older than 75, the most common cause is falling. Other common causes include violent assaults, firearms, and sports injuries.

If you have experienced a TBI, rehabilitation may be an important part of your recovery.

Reasons for rehabilitation

Reasons for rehabilitation therapy include:

  • Improving your ability to function at home and in your community

  • Treating the mental and physical problems caused by TBI

  • Providing social and emotional support

  • Helping you adapt to changes as they occur during your recovery

Before rehabilitation

Before you can start rehabilitation after TBI, you must receive care and treatment for the early effects of TBI:

  • Emergency treatment for head and any other injuries

  • Intensive care treatment

  • Surgery to repair brain or skull injuries

  • Recovery in the hospital

  • Transfer to a rehabilitation hospital

During rehabilitation

Because every person's needs and abilities after TBI are different, you will have a rehabilitation program that’s designed especially for you. Your rehabilitation program is likely to involve many types of medical professionals so it’s important to have one person you can talk to. This person is often called your case coordinator.

Over time, your rehabilitation program will probably change as your needs and abilities change.

Rehabilitation can take place in various settings. You, your case coordinator, and your family should pick the setting that works best for you. Possible settings include:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation hospital

  • Outpatient rehabilitation hospital

  • Home-based rehabilitation

  • A comprehensive day program

  • An independent living center

Your individual rehabilitation program may include any or all of these treatments:

  • Physical therapy

  • Physical medicine

  • Occupational therapy

  • Psychiatric care

  • Psychological care

  • Speech and language therapy

  • Social support

You have many options for rehabilitation therapy, and the type of rehabilitation therapy that you need will be determined by your medical team. You may be evaluated by a neuropsychiatrist, a specialist who will assess your needs and abilities. This evaluation may include:

  • Bowel and bladder control

  • Speech ability

  • Swallowing ability

  • Strength and coordination

  • Ability to understand language

  • Mental and behavioral state

  • Social support needs

After rehabilitation

How long your rehabilitation therapy lasts and how much follow-up care you will need after rehabilitation depends on how severe your brain damage was and how well you respond to therapy. Some people may be able to return to the same level of ability they had before TBI, and some may need lifetime care.

You should know that some long-term results of TBI can show up years later. Long-term problems may include Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and other forms of dementia.

After rehabilitation you may be given these instructions:

  • Symptoms and signs that you should call your doctor about

  • Symptoms and signs that are to be expected

  • Advice on safety and self-care

  • Advice on alcohol and drug use

  • Community support resources available to you

Your primary care doctor should be given all the records and recommendations from your rehabilitation therapy team to help ensure that you continue to get the right care.