Red Flags for Brain Injury – Occupational Therapy Practice


Over 1.5 million TBIs occur every year. Many brain injuries can go undiagnosed, even in the hospital. Identifying mild to moderate brain injuries can be challenging, but help to prevent loss of further occupational participation and lowered quality of life.

These red flags from history, chief complaints, signs, and symptoms can be an indication of possible brain injury. During an occupational therapy evaluation, reassessment, or if suspected regular treatment, ask these questions and look for these signs and symptoms in your patients. Report any complaints or changes immediately to the team.


  • Blows to the head
  • Falls
  • Violent shaking of the head
  • Concussive forces
  • Losses of consciousness
  • Toxin exposure
  • Altered mental state
  • Heart failure
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Electrical shock
  • Orthopedic injuries
  • Seizures
  • Near drowning

Chief Complaints

  • Dizziness
  • Balance (poor)
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Tinnitus
  • Headaches
  • Motion sickness
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Seizures

Sensitivity To External Stimuli

  • Light
  • Noise
  • Touch
  • Large crowds
  • Busy environments
  • Movement and motion
  • Heights

Reported Changes In

  • Vision
  • Taste
  • Smell
  • Muscle Strength
  • Concentration
  • Memory
  • Reading
  • Auditory Comprehension
  • Attention
  • Safety awareness
  • Judgment
  • Decision making
  • Task initiation and planning
  • Cognitive processing
  • Temperament
  • Sleep
  • Eating and appetite
  • Sexual drive and libido
  • Social isolation
  • Behaviors
Jeff is a licensed occupational therapist and lead content creator for OT Dude. He covers all things occupational therapy as well as other topics including healthcare, wellness, mental health, technology, science, sociology, and philosophy. Buy me a Coffee on Venmo.