–   MARCH 2023   –

5 things you NEED to know about acquired brain injury (ABI)


An ABI is classified as an injury to the brain acquired after birth, so it can occur at any age and there are multiple different causes. Around 1 in 45 Australians have an ABI. Almost 75% of people with an ABI are younger than 65, and about 20,000 children under 15 years are impacted by this in Australia (as noted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2021). Causes include: traumatic brain injuries (from road traffic collisions, falls, assaults, etc.), cerebral aneurysms, brain haemorrhages or tumours, meningitis, and strokes. As such, they are classified by severity as being mild, moderate, or severe.

  1. Variable recovery time

Recovery from an ABI does not stop after two years, so it’s important to find a balance between spending intensive time on rehabilitation and accepting limitations. The support plan put in place long-term needs careful consideration, and this is something our team can help you with. 

  1. Environment is everything

The role that environmental enrichment and meaningful stimuli has on an individual with an ABI has been linked to cognitive and physical improvements. There are ongoing reports of people making improvements in their vocational, social and physical abilities for many years that follow after a brain injury and this is often assisted by community therapy teams that promote recovery through individualised rehabilitation plans. 

  1. Look beyond what you can see

Physical impairments alone do not provide an accurate reflection of the severity of the brain injury. People with an ABI may have multiple fractures, loss of movements in limbs, and an inability to move themselves, and still have intact thinking and cognitive function. It is important to acknowledge that if a person cannot verbally communicate, or respond to you in a way that you comprehend, it does not directly reflect their awareness or emotional intelligence. Furthermore, if a person is able to walk and talk it does not accurately reflect their cognitive function, and they might have severe memory, problem solving or insight deficits.

  1. Be aware of the bigger picture

Each individual is unique and the emotional, physical and cognitive impacts of their ABI will vary, depending on their environment, support system, type of brain injury and self-belief. One of the most important things to know when working with someone with an ABI is what made up their self-identity pre-injury, what they value in their life, and what their goals are in the short, mid and long term. Providing education and strategies to help an individual set goals, and empower them to optimise their functional potential is crucial. As part of this empowerment, acknowledge that grief is common after an ABI, and can present in a variety of ways, such as the loss of a body part, their family role, bodily functions, or their previous role in society. 

  1. People supporting someone with an ABI need to protect their own wellbeing too

Those who care for people with an ABI also need to take care of themselves, being mindful that burnout, stress and changes in family dynamics can occur along the recovery pathway. Time out for yourself is important to prevent burnout. Considering counselling or therapy to help you to find coping strategies that may work for you is also a positive action to take.

If you need to refer people in your care who require neuro physio for ABI or other conditions, our dedicated specialists would be delighted to help. Contact us to book a free 15-minute consultation or complete the referral form online and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours (on week days) to explore the best way forward.