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Brain Injury Definitions

Below are some helpful definitions for acquired brain injury which can affect people of any age, race or demographic. 

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is damage to the brain caused by:

  • A traumatic injury, e.g., a car accident, fall, assault or sports-related injury, or
  • A medical problem or disease, e.g., the brain not getting enough oxygen, a tumour, brain aneurysm, infection or a stroke.

An ABI occurs after birth and is not related to:

  • A congenital disorder or developmental disability, e.g., cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, autism, spina bifida with hydrocephalus,
  • A process that gradually damages the brain, e.g., dementia, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease.

Source: Toronto ABI Network

Acquired Brain Injury is NOT...

A degenerative condition like Parkinson's Desease, Alzheimer's Disease, Huntington's Disease or Multiple Sclerosis (MS), nor is it a congenital condition like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), prenatal illness, perinatal hypoxia.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury is damage to the brain, which occurs after birth, as a result of an external force (ie. fall, motor vehicle crash, assault).

Non-Traumatic Brain Injury

Non-Traumatic Brain Injury is damage to the brain as a result of one of the following:

  • Hypoxia and anoxia (ie. oxygen loss due to near-drowning, strangulation, cardiac arrest, aneurism and atm vascular malformation after cardiac arrest)
  • Space occupying lesion (ie. tumour, cyst, abscess, haematoma)
  • Toxins (ie. lead, mercury, solvents, carbon monoxide)
  • Illness (ie. meningitis, encephalitis)


A concussion is a mild brain injury following trauma. The brain is injured by an impact or a sudden change in momentum or movement.

Some people experience a brief loss of consciousness (not exceeding 30 minutes). Or a person may remain conscious, but feel dazed, in a fog or confused.

A concussion can cause both short-term and long-term difficulties. It may or may not show up on a diagnostic imaging test, such as a CT scan.   Source: www.onf.org