Head injuries are injuries caused to the scalp, skull, and brain. Head injury is generally confused with concussions. Concussions are the most common type of sports-related traumatic brain injury. Around 1.6-3.8 million sports-related concussion cases are reported every year. Head injuries can be either closed or open. Closed injuries are not harmful as it does not break your skull or cause any damage to it. An open head injury can break the skull and cause damage to the brain.
A closed head injury is when you receive a hard blow from striking an object, but no damage has been caused to the skull. An open head injury is also called penetrating head injury. In open head injury, the object can break your skull and enter the brain causing severe damage(1).
A head injury can be a mild bump or a bruise and in severe cases, it can lead to traumatic brain injury. The most common head injuries include concussions, skull fractures, and scalp wounds. Head injuries can cause bleeding in brain tissues and in the layers surrounding the brain.
Types of Head Injuries
Head injuries are classified into different types based on the severity.
The clotting of blood outside the blood vessels is referred to as a hematoma. The person will lose consciousness if the clotting causes pressure to build inside the skull.
Uncontrolled bleeding leads to hemorrhage(2). Bleeding is seen mostly in open head injuries. Bleeding in the spaces around the brain is called subarachnoid hemorrhage and bleeding within the brain tissue is called intracerebral hemorrhage.
Concussion is a severe brain injury that occurs when your brain bounces against the walls of your skull. A concussion is usually temporary and repeated concussions may lead to permanent damage.
Any head injury can lead to edema or swelling. Swelling is generally seen in the surrounding tissues. The condition is severe when the swelling is seen in the brain.
[Read: Natural Remedies for Edema]
5. Skull fracture
As the skull does not have bone marrow, it is difficult to break the skull when compared to other bones of your body. Skull damage may cause direct damage to the brain.
There are many different causes of head injury. The most common causes of head injury include:
- Traffic accidents
- Physical assault
- Accident while playing sports
- Accidents at home or work
Head injury symptoms may appear soon after the injury or in few cases it takes several hours. The common signs of head injury include:
- Fuzzy vision
- Fracture in skull
- Change in size of pupil
- Loss of consciousness
- Bleeding in severe cases
Head Injury Treatment and First Aid
People should learn to recognize head injury before giving basic first aid. You need to take medical help right away if the person:
- Behaves abnormally
- Becomes sleepy
- Is unable to move an arm or leg
- Loses consciousness
- Vomits more than once
- Has abnormal and unequal size of pupil
- Develops severe headache
- Feels stiffness in neck region
If the above following conditions are not seen in the patient, then you can give the first aid by following these few easy steps. The following basic steps should be kept in mind while dealing with a person with head injury until the medical help arrives.
- Check whether the person is able to breathe or not.
- If the person experiences difficulty breathing then check the airway.
- Support the jaw and tilt the head on one side and try to clear any foreign object or fluid.
- After removing the foreign objects try to observe the chest movement and listen to the air escaping.
- If necessary begin rescue breathing and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)
- If the person is not breathing then in the first attempt give two rescue breaths.
- Rescue breathing is a procedure where the rescuer is breathing for the person and helping to prevent brain damage and death of the patient.
- CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is a life-saving technique that combines chest compression often with artificial ventilation to maintain circulatory oxygenation to prevent death with cardiac arrest.
- 5 full ventilation can be given in ten seconds. Check the neck pulse after ventilation.
- If the pulse is present, resuscitation at a rate of 15 per minute i.e., one every 4 seconds.
- External cardiac compression is provided in the absence of neck pulse.
- Place the heel of one hand on the lower half of the sternum and lock the other hand to the first by grasping the wrist or interlocking fingers.
- Give 2 ventilation and 15 compression every 15 seconds.
- There is a chance of spinal injury, if the person is unconscious and breathing and heart rate is normal.
- In the case of spinal injury stabilize the head and neck by placing hands on both sides. Keep the head in line with the spine to prevent movement.
- Try to stop bleeding by firmly pressing a clean cloth on the wound. Don’t move the person’s head if the injury is serious.
- If you are able to suspect a skull fracture, do not apply direct pressure to the bleeding site. Try not to remove any debris from the wound.
- Do not try to wash the head wound in case of heavy bleeding.
- If the person is vomiting, roll the person’s head, neck and body as one unit onto their side to prevent choking.
- If there is any swelling try applying ice pack if possible on the swollen areas.
- Seek medical help when there is severe bleeding.
Initial first aid is a must in accidental head injury. Medical assistance should be provided in severe cases. Sports-related head injuries are common and thus athletes need to be careful while playing outdoor games.
People who ride vehicles also come across most of the head injuries due to road accidents. Head injury can be prevented by taking minimum care while outdoors.
[ Read: Treat Torn Rotator Cuff Injury ]
1. How long do head injury symptoms last?
The symptoms of a brain injury could last up to 4 weeks. They could be subtle and could even go unnoticed until you return to normalcy. These symptoms could fluctuate in intensity, however, they should overall improve with time.
2. Can the baby go to sleep after hitting the head?
Yes, contrary to popular belief, children are often sleepy, once they have knocked their heads and have cried a lot. It is perfectly okay to let them sleep, once even after they have hurt their head. However, do see if there is any bleeding or blood, else you are good to go.