Brain Injury Information

Brain Injury Can Happen to Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is a disruption in brain function that occurs after birth. It isn't hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma.

Traumatic Brain Injury: an injury to the brain caused by an external source such as

  • a motor vehicle collision
  • a fall
  • a sports-related injury
  • an assault

Non-traumatic Brain Injury: an internal injury to the brain which can be the result of

  • a stroke, aneurysm, brain bleed
  • brain tumour, infection
  • substance use, ingesting other toxins
  • oxygen deprivation (e.g. near-drowning or overdose)

Brain injury is an invisible injury. On the outside, people with a brain injury can appear to be fully recovered. Meanwhile, they are still struggling internally with the effects of their injury. This can result in others expecting more of them than they can give. 

Recovery can be a long - sometimes lifelong -  journey. Those with brain injury will respond to being treated with patience, respect, and encouragement.

Impact of Acquired Brain Injury

Every brain injury is unique. Each person sustaining a brain injury may be affected differently depending on the location of the injury, its severity, any history of previous brain injuries, and age. The impact of ABI is also felt by the family/caregivers. They, too, must adjust to the changes and challenges of post-injury life.

Brain injury can cause a wide range of changes which may include:

  • Cognitive

    - more time needed to process information
    - difficulty completing daily tasks
    - difficulty communicating
    - difficulty with memory, reasoning
    - difficulty concentrating
    - impulsivity

  • Physical

    - headaches
    - sensitivity to light/sound
    - nausea/vomiting
    - loss of coordination or balance
    - vision impairment
    - chronic pain
    - fatigue
    - dizziness/ vertigo
    - seizures

  • Emotional

    - personality changes
    - irritability/ anger
    - mood swings
    - social inappropriateness
    - denial
    - sadness, anxiety, depression
    - showing little emotion
    - loss of sense of self

  • Behavioural

    - impulsivity
    - engaging in risky behaviour
    - social inappropriateness
    - difficulty with relationships
    - changes in sleep pattern
    - social isolation
    - changes in personality

Family Guides

Our guidebooks help family members and loved ones through two different phases of recovery.

These guides are intended to be a general resource for families. Specific protocols may vary depending on the location and nature of the injury.

Family Guide: Critical Phase

This guide has information to assist you through the critical phase of your loved one's recovery. 

Family Guide: Rehabilitation Phase

This guide covers many issues that surface for injured persons and their families.

Over 1.5 million Canadians live with Brain Injury.

General Brain Injury Websites - an archive of articles written about brain injury by Paul Mitchell, Q.C. - education, awareness, and advocacy - preventing, treating, and living with traumatic brain injury - brain injury information and resources in B.C. - public awareness and knowledge of acquired/traumatic brain injury - traumatic brain injury rehabilitation and resources - Ontario Brain Injury Association; provides education, awareness, and support - Pain BC programs and resources available to help manage the physical, emotional, and practical effects of chronic pain

Research on Exercise Post-Injury

Recent research used to help safely form the parameters of our Aerobic Exercise Program, including exercise duration, frequency, type, and intensity:

Chin L, et al. 2015. Improved cognitive performance following aerobic exercise training in people with traumatic brain injury.

Chin L et al. 2014. Improved cardiorespiratory fitness with aerobic exercise training in individuals with traumatic brain injury.

Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, Franklin BA, Lee IM, Nieman DC, Swain DP. Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise.

Gordon WA, Sliwinksi M, Echo J, McLoughlin M, Sheerer MS, Meili TE. The benefits of exercise in individuals with traumatic brain injury: A retrospective study(Note: Link takes you to abstract of this article.)

McCullagh S, Feinstein A.(2011). Cognitive Changes. In Silver JM, McAllister, TW, Yudofsky SC (eds), Textbook of Traumatic Brain Injury 2nd edition. (pages 279-293) American Psychiatric Publishing Inc. (Note: Link takes you to abstract of this chapter in the textbook.)

Mossberg K. 2010. Endurance training and cardiorespiratory conditioning after traumatic brain injury.


Ahead of the Game | Dr. Paul van Donkelaar and Karen Mason | TEDxKelowna - A women’s shelter executive director and a neuroscientist team up to explore how expanding concussion research to examine the intersection of traumatic brain injury and intimate partner violence has the potential to change policy, procedure, and lives.  (For more information or support related to intimate partner violence connect with the Kelowna Women's Shelter.)

Brain Injury by the Numbers

How Prevalent is Brain Injury?

The incidence of acquired brain injury outnumbers breast cancer, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS combined.


  • Over 1.5 million Canadians live with a brain injury.
  • There are 165,00 brain injuries sustained in Canada every year.
  • Every 3 minutes someone in Canada sustains a brain injury.

British Columbia

  • 180,000 British Columbians live with a brain injury.
  • There are 22,000 new brain injuries in British Columbia every year.
  • Every day there are 60 new cases of brain injury in British Columbia.

The incidence of brain injury is reaching epidemic proportions. Yet funding, resources, awareness, and research are not keeping pace with these rates.

Brain Injury and Mental Health

  • People who have traumatic brain injuries (TBI) may be nearly twice as likely to die by suicide as individuals who don’t have a history of TBI. The risk increase is greatest in the first six months after initial treatment for brain injury.
  • More than 60% of people with a traumatic brain injury experience depression and anxiety even years after injury.
  • We offer clinical counselling specific to individuals with brain injury and their care-givers, learn more here


Brain Injury and Substance Use

  • Approximately one-third of those who experience traumatic brain injury have a history of substance abuse prior to their injury.
  • Twenty percent of people who do not have a substance abuse problem become vulnerable to substance abuse after a brain injury.
  • Substance use increases the risk of sustaining another brain injury.
  • BrainTrust works with clients one-on-one and as part of our group programs to offer support for substance use, learn more about our Substance Use and Brain Injury (SUBI) group program here

Brain Injury and Criminal Behaviour

  • Canadians who have suffered a traumatic brain injury are 2.5 times more likely to be federally incarcerated. However, experts estimate that half of those who suffer brain trauma never seek medical care. This means their injuries go undetected and are not included in studies.
  • Studies around the world have shown that between 50 and 80% of the prison population has experienced a traumatic brain injury.
  • Brain injury, mental illness, and substance misuse are all overrepresented in the prison population.
  • Brain injury in early life is a risk factor for offending in later life.
  • Our Crime Reduction & Prevention Program works with persons who have brain injuries and are involved with the criminal justice system, learn more here


Brain Injury and Homelessness

  • In one Toronto study, nearly 50% of homeless men had suffered at least one traumatic brain injury.  87% of these injuries occurred prior to them becoming homeless.
  • We offer Life Skills Support to help clients who are homeless or transitioning to housing, find out more about what we offer here