No two traumatic brain injuries are exactly the same, and symptoms can vary based on the damage to the brain.
Nevertheless, difficulties maintaining balance are common with TBI. The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center describes some of the factors that can contribute to balance problems after a TBI.
1. Injury to the brain stem
The brain stem is the structure that connects the brain and the spinal cord. It is the part of the brain responsible for controlling movement, so an injury to the brain stem can cause problems with balance.
2. Issues with sensation
A TBI may disrupt communication between the brain and the peripheral nerves of the feet and legs. These nerves send signals to the brain that help the body maintain balance. If the brain cannot receive these signals, balance issues may result.
3. Problems with the inner ear
The vestibular system is a collection of tiny organs in the inner ear that play an important role in maintaining balance. Damage to the vestibular system from a TBI could result in vertigo, which is a sensation of spinning or movement when the body is standing still, as well as other balance problems.
4. Problems with vision
A TBI may affect the brain’s ability to process visual information. This can result in depth perception problems or double vision. It can also cause a partial loss of vision. The inability of the brain to reconcile information that it receives from the eyes with signals from other parts of the body can have a negative effect on balance.
There may also be factors that existed prior to the injury that contribute to balance problems resulting primarily from a TBI. For example, medications that a patient takes for conditions unrelated to the TBI could cause side effects of lightheadedness or dizziness.