Assessment of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Diagnostic Protocol

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee of the Head Injury Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (1993). Definition of mild traumatic brain injury. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 8(3), 86-87.

Definition: A patient with mild traumatic brain injury is a person who has had a traumatically induced physiological disruption of brain function as manifested by at least one of the following:

1. any period of loss of consciousness;
2. any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident;
3. any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (e.g., feeling dazed, disoriented, or confused);
4. focal neurological deficit(s) that may or may not be transient but where the severity of the injury does not exceed the following:
a. loss of consciousness of approximately 30 minutes or less;
b. after 30 minutes, an initial Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 13-15; and
c. posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) not greater than 24 hours.


  • Determine whether or not consciousness was lost
  • Determine the duration (or estimate) of loss of consciousness
  • Determine whether there was an alteration of consciousness (dazed, stunned, confused)
  • Determine duration of altered consciousness
  • Characterize, in detail, the specifics of how the injury occurred
  • Document key information pertaining to the biomechanics of the injury (amount of force, rotatory forces present, accompanied by fall, size and speed of vehicles or objects struck by or against, damage to vehicles or objects struck by or against, detail all other bodily injuries sustained)
  • Determine the history of previous head injury or concussion by interview with the patient and family
  • Determine previous alcohol use
  • Determine previous substance use
  • Determine previous vocational pursuits, positions, and durations
  • Determine previous leisure pursuits, to include hobbies, athletics, and other recreational pursuits
  • Determine and, if possible, obtain academic record and rule out pre-existence of attention deficit disorder or learning disabilities
  • Determine social/legal history
  • The term "concussion" should be avoided and replaced with the term "mild traumatic brain injury" (MTBI) (American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1992[3])


  • Determine current sleep patterns time to bed, time to sleep, times awake, activities during wakefulness, rise time, and restedness upon awakening
  • Determine dietary habits
  • Determine exercise routine
  • Determine caffeine and nicotine usage and chronicle any changes since injury
  • Determine past medical history
  • Determine family medical history
  • Determine past medications
  • Determine current medications; chronicle changes in medications
  • Check neuroendocrine function: FSH, LH, IGF-1, T3, T4, TSH, free testoserone, total testoserone, estradiol, progesterone, cortisol
  • Check for hypercholsteremia, weight gain and exercise intolerance
  • Correlate symptomatology with medications. Review possible side effects. Determine use of over-the-counter medications/vitamins/supplements
  • Review EEG's
  • Review CT and MRI scans of the head. Note MRI strength. Review sinuses
  • Review skull x-rays
  • Review cervical x-rays, CT's, and MRI's
  • Review headache history. Characterize headaches to differentiate for sinusitis, tension, TMJ dysfunction, medication/substance withdrawal, migraine. Headaches should be fully characterized and described
  • Characterize and describe all visual complaints. Differentiate blurred vision from diplopia. Evaluate visual fields and ocular motor skills. Determine presence of photophobia, image suppression, image persistence
  • Characterize and describe all pain complaints as well as past/current treatments for same
  • Characterize complaints of dizziness, imbalance, and dyscoordination
  • Evaluate balance by protected single-foot standing, Romberg, star-march
  • Evaluate history of balance in low-light conditions
  • Evaluate for perilymphatic fistula, cupulolithiasis, and cervical dizziness
  • Evaluate cardiac status and serum glucose levels as possibly contributory to dizziness.
  • Review ENG's

ADL's (Activities of Daily Living)

Characterize the individual's daily routine.


  • Fully describe the individual's vocational history
  • Fully describe the individual's current job description. Include whether or not the work is full-time, part-time, seasonal
  • Determine the presence or absence of a supplemental disability insurance income
  • Determine workers' compensation TD payment level
  • Determine presence of salary continuation agreement
  • Determine status vs. wage loss compensation


  • Evaluate for anxiety, depression, panic attacks, somatization, hypochondriasis, malingering
  • Evaluate for issues of secondary gain
  • Evaluate for family system adaptation/adjustment
  • Differentiate psychiatric symptoms from iatrogenic or seizure-induced symptoms

Physical Therapy

  • Evaluate for overall fitness and conditioning, muscular strength, range of motion, sensation, proprioception
  • Characterize pain complaints
  • Balance/coordination diagnostics


Tests to be considered: MMPI-II, Beck's Depression Inventory, Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis, FIRO-B, Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery, Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitudes, Booklet Category Test, Wisconsin Card Sort, Trails-A & B, Neuropsychological Battery, Wide Range Achievement Test, Motor Free Visual Perception Test, Test of Visual Perception Skills, and the Santa Clara Valley Perceptual Motor Evaluation.


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