What is a head injury?

Head injury is trauma to any part of your head, including the scalp, skull or brain. Trauma can occur in a variety of situations, such as a car accident or a fall off your bike, or from different sources, such as a bullet wound or shrapnel impact.

Head injuries can be very dangerous and life threatening. Head injuries can also be very deceptive wherein suspected ‘minor trauma’ results in serious medical problems. It is important to note that if you sustain trauma to your head yet feel fine afterward, you could still have a head injury. Some serious head injuries do not produce symptoms that are noticeable immediately. It may be hours before you experience any symptoms. It is important to take any head injury very seriously and seek appropriate medical care.

There are two main types of head injury, open and closed. An open head injury is a trauma in which the skull has been broken and the skin is lacerated. A closed head injury is a trauma in which the head forcibly collides against an object but the skull does not break open. Both types of head injuries can be equally life threatening.

Regardless of symptoms, anyone who suffers a strong blow to the head should seek medical care. Examples include head trauma from a high-speed car accident, a high-speed bicycle crash, personal assault, a bullet wound to the head, or a fall from a high place. For head injuries from a low-impact collision, there are still some symptoms that should not be ignored, including a bad headache, loss of consciousness, pupils that are different sizes, memory loss, inability to move a body part, and unexplained anger and irritability, among others.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as confusion or loss of consciousness for even a brief moment, an obvious opening or break in the skull, unconsciousness, severe bleeding from the face or head, lethargy, difficulty breathing or not breathing at all, and pain in the back or neck area.

Seek prompt medical care for any significant head trauma, even if the symptoms are mild. Even if no symptoms appear after a blow to the head, that person should be monitored closely to ensure delayed symptoms do not emerge.


What are the symptoms of a head injury?

Symptoms of head injury include pain, bleeding, an obvious wound, inability to control bodily functions, and difficulty with memory, thinking, talking, comprehension or reading.

Common symptoms of a head injury

You may experience head injury symptoms daily or only occasionally. Any of these head injury symptoms can be severe:


What causes a head injury?

A head injury is any trauma to the head or face. It is caused by a forcible collision with some sort of object, large or small, such as the ground, a car, or a bullet. Some head injuries result in a break in the head or a fractured skull, which can immediately cause brain damage. Other head injuries result in swelling, which can damage the brain as the swelling progresses.

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How is a head injury treated?

Treatment for a head injury depends on its severity and exact location or type. A mild head injury can be treated by careful observation to monitor any worsening of symptoms and by medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), to control headache. Moderate or severe head injuries are treated with supportive care to ensure adequate oxygen and proper blood flow to the brain, among other things. A... Read more about head injurytreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves