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When I found out, in April 2009, I had a stroke almost a month later, I was traumatized that I had a brain injury. So of course, I called my stroke a TBI.  I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, no diabetes, and both low cholesterol and blood pressure.

I lived a healthy lifestyle. Until just recently, when I began the research, did I realize that my stroke is not a TBI at all! So let’s set the record straight.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is an umbrella term for its two main categories: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Non-Traumatic Brain Injury (Non-TBI). So ABI stands for TBI or Non-TBI, or sometimes both. Hang with me here, because by the time I’m finished, you’ll know what’s what.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a change in brain function caused by an external force with impact to the head. They include if you have experienced:

  • Assault
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Sports injury
  • Fall

Let’s go to the other half of ABIs. They’re called Non-TBI, also serious, that doesn’t come from an external force with impact to the head, and include:

  • Stroke
  • Near-drowning
  • Aneurysm
  • Tumor
  • Infectious disease that affects the brain (i.e., meningitis)
  • Lack of oxygen supply, also called anoxia (i.e., heart attack) 

Just to confuse us, some conditions are a toss-up–either TBI or Non-TBI. 

For example, Spinal cord injury could be due to either traumatic or non-traumatic causes. 

In the case of traumatic spinal cord injury due to an accident (external and hitting the head), comprehensive and immediate trauma care is urgent for long-term outcome in survival.

Non-traumatic causes of spinal cord injury include arthritis, cancer, infection, blood vessels problems, bleeding, and inflammation, which occur over time.

So that’s the whole story of categories with ABIs, TBIs, and Non-TBI, and sometimes both. If you learn visually, the chart at the top of this blog may be of some help.

As Troy Polamalu, the former National Football League player who had three concussions (if you learned he had a TBI, good for you) over his career, said, “Injury in general teaches you to appreciate every moment.”

That it does, Troy. That it does.

Joyce Hoffman

Joyce Hoffman

Joyce Hoffman is one of the world's top 10 stroke bloggers according to the Medical News Today. You can find the original post and other blogs Joyce wrote in Tales of a Stroke Survivor. (https://talesofastrokesurvivor.blog)
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