About Brain Injury

A brain injury can profoundly affect the lives of a survivor and their family.
In an instant, life can change forever.
A brain injury can happen to anyone, any time, anywhere.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) refers to any damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not related to a congenital or a degenerative disease.

Millions of Canadians live with the effects of Acquired Brain Injury, with over 70,000 in Nova Scotia alone³. There are an estimated 17,000 new brain injuries every year in Nova Scotia¹, with nearly 7,500 of these injuries causing prolonged symptoms². Brain injury affects over 70,000 Nova Scotians — it is the leading killer and disabler of people under 40¹.

There are more people impacted by acquired brain injuries than the combined numbers of people who have breast cancer, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS. The effects also extend to those living with and caring for people with ABIs.

Living in Nova Scotia presents an even greater challenge for brain injury survivors and their families. Though things are improving, there are few appropriate publicly-funded services and supports specific to brain injury in Nova Scotia — particularly if you live outside Halifax.

If you are a brain injury survivor, family/caregiver, professional, we urge you to become a member of Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia at no cost! We also encourage members of the public to become a member and support an underserved community (no cost to join).

There is strength in numbers, and we will do our very best to keep you connected to your community through free program offerings, training courses, and support groups for survivors, caregivers, and professionals, offer service navigation support, advocate for change at all levels of government, and continue to expand our education and peer support networks to communities across Nova Scotia. You are not alone.

A brain injury can range from mild to severe. Many suffer permanent effects after sustaining a brain injury.
Tragically, an unknown number go undiagnosed. No injury should be ignored.

There are 2 types of Acquired Brain Injuries: Traumatic and Non-Traumatic

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic Acquired Brain Injuries are caused by an outside force, such as a blow, bump, or jolt. It can result in temporary injury or more serious, long-term damage to brain cells. They include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls
  • Assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Shaken baby syndrome
  • Sports injuries
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Explosive blasts, combat injuries

Non-Traumatic Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Non-Traumatic Acquired Brain Injuries are caused by something that happens inside the body or a substance introduced into the body that damages brain tissues. They include:

  • Ischemic stroke (stroke from a blocked blood vessel in the brain)
  • Hemorrhagic stroke (stroke from a burst blood vessel in the brain)
  • Aneurysm (a bulge in a blood vessel in the brain that may leak/rupture)
  • Seizure disorders
  • Brain tumour
  • Poisoning
  • Substance abuse
  • Opioid overdose (heroin, fentanyl, codeine, morphine)
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Hydrocephalus (fluid accumulates in the brain)
  • Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessel walls in the brain)
  • Hematoma (blood collecting on the surface of the brain)

Impact of Acquired Brain Injuries

The effects of an acquired brain injury can begin to show immediately or increase/decrease over time. Each individual will experience a unique combination of challenges and changes.

Physical Changes

  • Fatigue, difficulty sleeping, or insomnia.
  • Challenges walking, moving, or sitting.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Chronic pain or headaches.
  • Changes in vision.
  • Sensory changes: ears ringing, hand-eye coordination, balancing, dizziness, etc.

Behavioural Changes

  • Impulsivity or engaging in risky behaviour.
  • Isolating oneself.
  • Lack of a “verbal filter”.
  • Family breakdowns.
  • Change in independence level.
  • Difficulty with social & work relationships.

Cognitive Changes

  • Difficulty concentrating or easily distracted.
  • Needing more time to process information.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Confusion about date, location, or time.
  • Difficulty making plans or starting tasks.
  • Getting “stuck” on a single topic/activity.
  • Difficulty remembering things & learning.

Emotional Changes

  • Irritability or having a “short fuse”.
  • Depression, anxiety, & anger.
  • Feeling a loss of identity.
  • Having sudden, extreme emotions.
  • Showing limited emotional response.

A Concussion is a Brain Injury

Through a partnership with Concussion Nova Scotia, we are happy to provide access to up-to-date information and resources and concussions. View all of our excellent resources and information on our concussion information page.

Nova Scotia Concussion Awareness


  1. [601.5/100,000 people hospitalized annually for non-concussion brain injuries (1) + 1,153/100K diagnosed with a concussion annually (2), extrapolated for N.S. population]
  2. [Post-concussion syndrome rate: ~25% of survivors (3) * 1,153/100K diagnosed with a concussion annually (2), + 601.5/100,000 people hospitalized annually for non-concussion brain injuries (1), extrapolated for N.S. population]
  3. [500/100K living with the impact of brain injuries (4), extrapolated proportionally to consider new research on prevalence of concussions & other brain injuries (1, 2), extrapolated for N.S. population]