How are Brain Injuries Classified?

July 27, 2021 | Blog,Brain Injuries

Brain injuries are amongst the most devastating types of injuries that a person can experience. When a person sustains a traumatic brain injury, they risk suffering from a range of short- and long-term disabilities. Here, we want to discuss how brain injuries are classified. Not all brain injuries are the same. Some are relatively minor and victims and make a full recovery. However, some brain injuries are more severe, and these could lead to a victim needing lifelong care. 

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries occur anytime there is a bump, blow, or jolt to the head (closed head injury) or when an object penetrates the skull (penetrating head injury). Traumatic brain injuries can occur in a wide variety of ways, including vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries, medical mistakes, child abuse or assault, and more.

Brain Injury Classifications

Brain injuries can be classified in many different ways, most of which we will briefly summarize here.

Primary versus secondary injuries

A primary brain injury occurs anytime an injury is induced by mechanical forces. This means that the injury was caused by an object striking the head or the brain striking the inside of the skull, as well as by acceleration and deceleration forces.

Secondary brain injuries are usually caused by a cascade of events where the symptoms of a brain injury are delayed from the moment of impact only to affect the brain later. Often, these injuries are caused by blood flow or oxygenation issues within the body.

Focal versus diffuse injuries

A focal brain injury is typically caused by the head sustaining some sort of impact. These injuries are typically detectable by MRIs, PET scans, or CT scans. Focal brain injuries might present as skull fractures, contusions, or bleeding inside the skull.

Diffuse brain injuries are typically caused by acceleration or deceleration forces, and a resulting concussion effect can cause a diffuse axonal injury and swelling of the brain. These injuries are harder to diagnose with the scans mentioned above, and they often result in the tearing of nerve tissue that disrupts the brain’s communication processes.

Open versus closed injuries

Open brain injuries typically occur as a result of an object penetrating the skull and entering into the brain, including bullets, knives, or some other sharp object that forces bone, skin, and hair into the brain. 

Closed head injuries refer to those caused by outside forces that affect the head and body but do not cause any penetration of the skull.

Severity degrees

Brain injuries are classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Mild brain injuries typically only affect brain cells temporarily. However, moderate to severe brain injuries can lead to a range of long-term complications or even death.


The final way to classify brain injuries is based on the symptoms. Traumatic brain injuries can cause a range of physical, cognitive, physiological, and psychological effects either immediately or over a period of time after the injury occurs. The symptoms typically differ depending on the severity of the brain injury, but that is not always the case.

Working With an Attorney

If you or somebody you care about has sustained a brain injury caused by the careless or negligent actions of another individual or business, you need to work with a skilled brain injury lawyer in Indiana who can help you secure the compensation you are entitled to. An attorney can use their resources to conduct a complete investigation into the incident, determine liability, and negotiate with insurance carriers and at-fault parties.