What is a Brain Injury?

Learn more about brain injury in children and adolescents.

Types of brain injury

Congenital: Brain injury that occurs before birth
This group of brain defects or disorders develop in the womb and are present at birth.

Acquired: Brain injury that occurs after a child is born.
Acquired brain injuries fall into 2 categories; traumatic and non-traumatic. A traumatic brain injury occurs when there is impact to the head or body causing the brain inside to be injured. Traumatic brain injuries can be classified as mild, moderate or severe.

Categories of brain injury and possible causes:



Can be caused by:

  • Inherited genetic defects
  • Spontaneous mutations within the embryo's genes
  • Damage to the fetus caused by the mother's exposure to:
    • Toxins
    • Infection
    • Trauma
    • Drug use

The cause of congenital brain injury is not always known.

Traumatic brain injuries:

  • Assault
  • Bicycle crash
  • Car crash
  • Fall
  • Gunshot wound
  • Physical fight
  • Sports injury
  • Violently shaken by someone

Non-traumatic brain injuries:

  • Brain infection (meningitis, encephalitis)
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Near drowning
  • Inhaling or swallowing chemicals (for example: paint, glue or gases)
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Stroke
  • Suffocation

When the brain is injured

Our brains are like our central processing center. Everything we do, think, and feel is controlled by our brain. This is why injuries to the brain can cause a variety of changes or symptoms. A brain injury can impact someone's ability to: 



Understand language



Behave or control self

Organize tasks


Make safe decisions

Solve problems

Pay attention

Eat, feed oneself

Interact with others


How we help

At Hennepin Healthcare we know that every brain is unique, and so is every brain injury. Care of children with brain injury requires an individual approach, and careful attention by trained experts. Our Pediatric Brain Injury Program specializes in treating children with acquired brain injuries. We have been providing this specialized care to children and adolescents since our Program began in 1989. Learn more about the Pediatric Brain Injury Program.

Return to the Traumatic Brain Injury Center page, the Traumatic Brain Injury Outpatient Program page, the Knapp Rehabilitation page or the Pediatric Brain Injury Program page.