Traumatic Brain Injury Cases: Here Are the Terms You Need to Know

Traumatic brain injuries can range greatly in their severity, but even the mildest of cases can result in injuries that can last a lifetime. That’s why understanding your injuries as thoroughly as possible is paramount to getting the justice you deserve. 

Why? Because a mistake may mean the difference between basing your case around concussion-like symptoms or being able to prove you’re experiencing chorea (brief involuntary jerky movements), global aphasia (severe communication disability) or hemiparesis (weakness of one side of the body).

One may result in a small settlement that helps in the short term, while the other may result in compensation that ensures you’re able to maintain the new lifestyle your injuries have forced you into.  

Our experienced traumatic brain injury attorneys have worked closely with medical experts over the years to ensure our clients’ injuries are being evaluated properly and that their financial and care needs are met. As a result, we have become well versed in the medical terminology and legal actions necessary to ensure you get the justice you deserve. 

Now, we know that just looking at some of the medical terms associated with brain injuries can feel overwhelming and frankly, a bit confusing. So we’ve put together a glossary of common terms and conditions we think you’ll find helpful.

And remember, if you or a loved one have been injured, we’re here to help. Fill out a free case consultation form below to get in touch with a member of our team and find out if we can help you get the compensation you deserve. 


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Agraphia: An acquired neurological disorder causing a loss in the ability to communicate through writing, either due to some form of motor dysfunction or an inability to spell.

Amnesia: A partial or total loss of memory. 

Aneurysm: Swelling or dilation of an artery due to a weakened wall.

Anomia: The inability to name objects or items.

Apathy: A direct result of brain injury to frontal lobe structures which concern emotion, motivation and forward planning.

Aphasia: Difficulty understanding or expressing language as a result of damage to the brain.

Apraxia: Inability to plan and perform purposeful movements, while still having the ability to move and be aware of movements.

Athetosis: Abnormal writhing movements, particularly of the hands, seen in a number of brain disorders and following brain injury.


Brain Plasticitya: The ability of intact brain cells to take over functions of damaged cells; plasticity diminishes with maturation.

Brain Scan: An imaging technique in which dye is injected into the bloodstream and then pictures of the brain are taken to detect tumors, hemorrhages, blood clots, abscesses or abnormal anatomy. 

Brain Skull Fracture: This is the most serious type of skull fracture, and involves a break in the bone at the base of the skull. 

Brain Stem: The lower extension of the brain where it connects to the spinal cord. Neurological functions located in the brain stem include those necessary for survival


Cerebellum: Area at the back of the brain, below the cerebral hemispheres, involved in the control of movement, coordination, posture and balance.

Cerebral Anoxia: A complete interruption of the supply of oxygen to the brain.

Cerebral Ischaemia: A deficiency of blood supply to brain tissue, due to an interruption or reduction of arterial blood flow.

Chorea: Brief involuntary jerky movements involving the limbs and face, seen in a number of brain disorders and following brain injury.

Closed Head Injury: Damage to the brain where there is no penetration from the scalp or skull through to brain tissue. Often there is no injury to scalp or skull.

Cognition: General term used to cover all areas of intellectual functioning. Includes skills such as thinking, remembering, planning, understanding, concentrating and using language.

Concussion: Unconsciousness after a blow to the head.

Contusion: A contusion is a bruise to the brain itself.


Diffuse Brain Injury: Injury to cells in many areas of the brain rather than in one specific location. 

Diplopia: Double vision.

Disorientation:  Not knowing where you are, who you are, or the current date.  


Emotional Lability: Rapid and drastic changes in emotional state (such as laughing, crying or anger) that are inappropriate.

Executive Functions: The ability to think and reason, to synthesize and integrate complex information and make considered judgements and decisions about what to do in a particular situation.


Focal Brain Injury: Injury restricted to one region (as opposed to diffuse).

Frontal Lobe: Front part of the brain; involved in planning, organizing, problem solving, selective attention, personality and a variety of “higher cognitive functions.”


Glasgow Coma Scale: A standardized system used to assess the degree of brain impairment and to identify the seriousness of injury in relation to outcome.

Global Aphasia: A condition in which patients suffer severe communication disabilities as a result of extensive damage to portions of the brain responsible for language.


Hematoma: A collection of blood forming a definite swelling which compresses and damages the brain around it.

Hemiparesis: Weakness of one side of the body.


Immediate Seizures: Seizures that occur within 24 hours of a traumatic brain injury.

Infarction: Death of brain cells resulting from an interruption of their blood supply, as occurs in a stroke.

Intracerebral Hematoma: Bleeding within the brain caused by damage to a major blood vessel.


Kinesthia: The sensory awareness of body parts as they move.


Locked In System: A condition in which the patient is awake and retains the ability to sense and perceive, but is unable to communicate except by limited eye movements.

Long Term Memory: In neuropsychological testing, this refers to recall thirty minutes or longer after presentation. Requires storage and retrieval of information which exceeds the limit of short term memory.


Motor Cortex: The part of the brain involved in planning and executing voluntary movements.


Non-fluent Aphasia: A condition in which patients have trouble recalling words and speaking in complete sentences. Also called Broca’s or motor aphasia.

Non-ambulatory: Not able to walk.

Nystagmus: Involuntary horizontal, vertical, or rotary movement of the eyeballs. See also vision after head injury.


Oedema: Increased water content in the brain, causing brain swelling.

Open Head Injury: An injury where there is penetration of the scalp and skull through to brain tissue.


Perception:  The ability to make sense of what one sees, hears, feels, tastes or smells.

Persistent Vegetative State: An ongoing state of severely impaired consciousness, in which the patient is incapable of voluntary motion, utters no words, does not follow commands or make any meaningful response. 

Post-concussion Syndrome: A group of symptoms occurring after minor head injury that may persist for days, weeks or months.

Post-traumatic Amnesia: The period after being unconscious when there may be confused behavior and no continuous memory of day to day events.


Retrograde Amnesia: Inability to recall events that occurred prior to the accident; may be a specific span of time or type of information.


Seizure: Abnormal activity of nerve cells in the brain causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior, or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness.

Shaken Baby Syndrome: A severe form of head injury that occurs when an infant or small child is shaken forcibly enough to cause the brain to bounce against the skull.

Skull Fracture: A skull fracture is a break in the skull bone.


Tremor: Regular repetitive movements which may be worse either at rest or on attempted movement.


Vegetative State: After a very severe brain injury, there may be a transition from coma into a vegetative state. Basic functions such as breathing and maintaining the heartbeat and blood pressure all continue, but without evidence of consciousness in any meaningful sense and with no response to the environment and no ability to communicate.