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During their service, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) personnel may be exposed to events or conditions that can lead to a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This page offers information about TBI for Veterans and Families, including potential causes of TBI and quick facts about brain injuries. Resources for Veterans with a TBI, Family members and friends, and for health care providers are also available.


The following resources offer information on TBI and practical guidance on how to care for a TBI for Veterans, Family members and health care providers.

TBI 101

An overview of TBI, including causes, symptoms, treatment and coping strategies.

Tools and strategies

Practical information and guidance for Veterans and Families on day-to-day care for a TBI.


Information on how TBI and PTSD can overlap, including common symptoms.

For people who work with Veterans

Information to help service providers offer better care to Veterans with TBI.

Causes of TBI

A TBI happens when the brain is damaged by a sudden impact, jolt, bump or blow to the head or body. A person may lose consciousness and forget what happened right before or after the injury and feel confused or disoriented. TBIs can also affect a person’s day-to-day life, mental health and well-being.

Veterans may experience a TBI from events such as:

  • Blows to the head while carrying out duties or during an arrest
  • Blows to the head from weapons or objects
  • Assault
  • Repeated firing of weapons or heavy machinery
  • Simulated combat training exercises
  • Repeated dynamic entry
  • Explosive forced entry
  • High-speed collisions during pursuits
  • Aircraft or vehicle accidents, including blast events, collisions or rollovers
  • Exposure to stun grenades (such as flash bangs)
  • Exposure to mortar or artillery fire
  • Blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or landmines
  • Blasts from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs)
  • Jumps or high-altitude training
  • Falls

Quick facts about TBI

  • TBIs can come from events that make the brain move inside the skull, injure the brain directly, or deprive the brain of oxygen.
  • Being exposed to blasts can be enough to cause a TBI, even if someone’s head isn’t injured directly.
  • There are three levels of TBI: mild, moderate or severe depending on the symptoms someone experiences.
  • Concussions are a type of mild TBI and are the most common type of TBI that Veterans experience.
  • Not every person who has a TBI knows that they have a TBI. The symptoms can be missed by the individual, their Family and their health care providers.

While each person’s experience is unique, Veterans living with a TBI can experience physical changes, differences in their thinking, emotions, and personality, and trouble communicating, remembering, and concentrating.

  • Sometimes the symptoms of a TBI can look similar to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • You can have PTSD and a TBI from the same event, although the two do not always happen together.
  • Some symptoms overlap in PTSD and TBI such as troubles with memory and attention, difficulty sleeping, irritability and feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • It is possible to recover from a TBI and get back to feeling like yourself and meeting your potential.
  • For a person with a TBI, recovery can mean restoring capabilities and improving functioning in daily life.
  • Treatment may help you restore your capability to meaningfully participate in daily life, although you may develop new ways to accomplish your goals that take into account the effects and symptoms of your injury.
  • Seeking treatment as soon as possible after an injury can help improve treatment outcomes. If your injury is from many years ago, the next best time to seek treatment is now.
  • Recovery from a TBI is possible and there are treatments and supports available to help you and your Family. Alongside the available treatments, there are tools and strategies that you can use to help manage your day-to-day life.

Additional resources

  • Disability benefits for Veterans by Brain Injury Canada: Brain Injury Canada has put together a list of disability benefits that Veterans can claim, including benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), information about case management, and other programs for Veterans.
  • VAC Critical Injury Benefit: The VAC Critical Injury Benefit is for serving CAF members and Veterans who have been impacted by a sudden, single incident of “severe and traumatic service-related injuries or illnesses” after March 31, 2006. This webpage explains the eligibility requirements for claiming the benefit along with information about how to apply.
  • BrainLine: BrainLine is a U.S.-based multimedia project that provides information and support to people affected by brain injury or PTSD, including military-specific information. The website offers videos, articles, research, news and more about TBI, the brain, diagnosis and treatment, as well as resources about the day-to-day impact of TBI. BrainLine also has a section for personal stories and blogs. Note: Information about treatment options and resources are focused on services available in the United States and may not be suitable or accessible for a Canadian audience.
  • Alberta Brain Injury Initiative survival guide: This guide covers basic information about brain injuries, navigating the transition from hospital care and managing the symptoms of a brain injury in day-to-day life. There is information for both the person affected by a brain injury and the Family or caregivers. Note: Resources and programs mentioned in the guide are localized to Alberta and may not be suitable or accessible for everyone.
  • Brain injury glossary: This online glossary by the Brain Injury Society of Toronto lists terms that may come up when discussing TBI, including some that health care providers may use. This glossary can be helpful to understand clinical terms used to describe your injury.
  • Caregiving after brain injury — Ontario Brain Injury Association: is a resource for understanding TBI, the impacts of TBI on individuals, Families and caregivers, as well as strategies and recovery information. The website shares this information through six learning modules and also lists Ontario-based resources.
  • Concussion Legacy Foundation: The Concussion Legacy Foundation website includes information about concussions and TBIs. Resources include symptom lists, explanations about some treatment options, guides for what to do after a concussion, and guides for putting your concussion history together before speaking with a health care provider.
  • Mild traumatic brain injury/concussion handbook — Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre: This virtual handbook for people that have experienced an mTBI or concussion and their Families includes information about what to expect from recovery, a recovery toolkit and space to develop your personal recovery plan.
  • Ontario Brain Injury Association: The Ontario Brain Injury Association website offers educational resources and training, awareness, and support through the association’s helpline. OBIA also offers online support groups and peer support for people living with a TBI and for caregivers. Note: Programs and services mentioned on the website are localized to Ontario and may not be suitable or accessible for everyone.
  • Resource website — Brain Injury Canada: Brain Injury Canada’s website features a resource section with information for three different audiences: people with a brain injury, Family members and caregivers of a person with a brain injury, and health care professionals.
  • Canadian Forces Members Assistance Program (CFMAP): CFMAP is a confidential, 24-7 short-term counselling service available to CAF members (Regular Force, Reserve and Cadets) and their Families. Trained counsellors provide support for various issues related to well-being and work performance. The numbers for the service are 1-800-268-7708 or TTY: 1-800-567-5803.
  • Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) Family Information Line: The Family Information Line is a 24-7 service for CAF members, Veterans and Veteran Families. The confidential service offers information, resources, guidance, emotional support, referrals and intake screening along with crisis support.
  • Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada HelpLine: The Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) HelpLine is a service for Veterans, athletes and others who are affected by concussions or chronic traumatic encephalopathy The HelpLine service offers guidance on choosing the right doctor, how to manage lingering symptoms, and can answer specific questions. You can submit a request on the CLF website for one of their team members to contact you.
  • Ontario Brain Injury Association Helpline: People living in Ontario can call the OBIA Helpline at 1-800-263-5404, Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time. The helpline offers confidential emotional support to people living with a TBI and to caregivers.
  • Operational stress injury (OSI) clinics: OSI clinics are specialized clinics for CAF members, Veterans and current and former RCMP members affected by mental health issues related to service, and their Families. There are various support options available, from assessment to treatment.
  • Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS): OSISS is a Canada-wide peer support network program, involving mentorship and shared knowledge. The program is aimed at CAF members, Veterans and their Families affected by an OSI.

For information about other services available to Veterans and Families, please visit the Atlas Institute’s directory of services.

List of contributors and suggested citations

This project was guided by and co-created with an advisory committee comprised of Veterans living with a TBI and Family members who support Veterans with TBIs, who provided guidance and feedback on content creation and creative development.

We are grateful to the committee members for sharing their time, expertise and experiences with us, and for their passion and dedication to helping Veterans living with TBIs.

These resources were prepared by the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families. Atlas would like to thank the following individuals for their contributions to these resources. Please note the names listed include only those who have explicitly consented to being acknowledged as a contributor.


Charlene Fanstone, Steve Lamrock, Anna Miller, Dr. J Don Richardson, Terri-Ann Winfield

Meriem Benlamri, Cara Kane, Polliann Maher, MaryAnn Notarianni, Hailley White

Meriem Benlamri, Cara Kane, Netta Sarah Kornberg, Polliann Maher, Hailley White

Cara Kane, Krystle Kung, Laryssa Lamrock, Polliann Maher, Dr. J Don Richardson, Lori-Anne Thibault, Hailley White

Netta Sarah Kornberg, Polliann Maher, Hailley White

Ghislain Girard

Project administration
Polliann Maher, Ms. Francesca Tellis, Hailley White

Research and analytics
Netta Sarah Kornberg, Hailley White

Meriem Benlamri, Cara Kane, Polliann Maher, MaryAnn Notarianni

Hailley White

Hailley White


  • Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families. Traumatic brain injury 101. Ottawa, ON: 2024. Available from:
  • Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families. Tools and strategies for daily living with traumatic brain injury. Ottawa, ON: 2024. Available from:
  • Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families. Traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder. Ottawa, ON: 2024. Available from:
  • Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families. (2024). Information about traumatic brain injuries for people who work with Veterans. Ottawa, ON: 2024. Available from:

Interested in learning more about the Atlas Institute’s approach to recognizing contributions to these resources? Check out our contributorship model for more information.


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