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What Are the Different Types of Head Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries are a type of head injury that can require extensive medical intervention.
Head injuries almost always involve bruising or tissue damage to the skull and brain.
A MRI scan of the head may be used to help determine the severity of an injury.
Football players are prone to head injuries, including concussions, due to hard hits to the head.
Someone not wearing a seatbelt might receive a head injury in a car accident.
The treatments for head injury depend upon the severity of the injury.
Concussions are a type of head injury that can lead to vomiting.
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  • Originally Written By: T. Davis
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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Head injuries come in many forms, but almost always involve bruising or tissue damage to the skull and brain. Concussions are some of the most common, and aren’t usually anything to worry about — though any injury to the head has the potential to be very serious, which means that even seemingly minor bumps should typically be evaluated by a professional. Skull fractures and cracks happen when the hard bone of the head makes contact with some other surface, as is often the case in accident and assault victims. Traumatic brain injuries are also usually the result of some sort of impact, and are among the hardest to fix or correct. People may also experience blood clots in their brains, though this is usually considered more of a brain injury than a head injury. In most cases, an injury is only ascribed to the head when damage originates from the outside.

Concussions

Concussions are essentially “brain bruises." They happen when the soft tissue of the brain slams into the skull wall with force. The human brain is surrounded by fluid that keeps it cushioned within the confines of the skull, and that fluid is generally able to withstand some jostling; when people hit their heads really hard, though, the brain can come through that fluid to collide with the bone. This typically leaves a bruise much like a bruise a person would experience when banging an arm or a leg into a hard surface.

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In most cases concussions are relatively minor, and they aren’t usually a cause for alarm. Some people experience immediate symptoms like losing consciousness or blurred vision, but other people won’t really feel anything out of the ordinary. Symptoms that can come on later include headaches, confusion, loss of awareness, memory loss, and vomiting, which may last a couple of days or weeks. Medical professionals often treat concussions by recommending that the patient stay off his or her feet and get plenty of rest, since in most cases the brain will heal itself.

Skull Fractures

Skull fractures happen when the skull actually breaks or cracks in response to outside pressure. There are four types of skull fractures: linear, diastatic, depressed, and basilar. Linear fractures are the least serious, and often involve no more than a hairline crack; basilar injuries, on the other hand, often involve breaks in multiple places, often putting doctors on the lookout for pieces of bone that may slip away and penetrate the brain.

Of course, it’s not usually possible to put a broken skull in a cast the way one would a broken arm or leg. Head braces and immobilizers are sometimes required during healing, but in most cases patients just have to commit to staying still and getting lots of rest. Special pillows may be needed depending on the extent of the injury, and a hospital stay including scans and specialized testing is often required to get a proper diagnosis.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Another major subset of injuries concerns direct impact to the brain. These often happen in conjunction with concussions or fractures, but are usually considered a separate type of injury, known in most places as a “traumatic brain injury” or TBI. TBIs sometimes heal themselves, as is often the case with bad concussions, but they may also require surgery or therapy. When objects have pieced the skull and entered the brain, for instance, patients often require extensive medical intervention to regain full brain function; the same is true when bruises cover large parts of the brain and cause tissues to die off or become impaired.

Blood Clots

Intracranial hematomas, more commonly known as blood clots in the brain, can also be considered a type of injury to the head, though unless they occur in conjunction with an outside trauma they are usually more properly classed as a brain problem. Epidural hematomas are clots that form between the brain and the skull, and can pass into the spinal column; subdural clots are those that form on the actual surface of the brain. Clots commonly follow TBIs, but they can happen all on their own, too, as is the case with strokes and aneurisms. Healthcare providers often want to closely monitor clots in the head as they can be lethal if they break free. Large clots can stop the heart of impair proper brain functioning in ways that can’t always be reversed.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of head traumas are often as varied as the injuries themselves, but persistent headaches, nausea, and loss of consciousness are among the most common. Blurred vision, slurred speech, and memory problems are also high on the list. In general, experts recommend that people get evaluated by a medical professional any time they’ve hit their head and notice anything out of the ordinary. Brain problems are often most easily treated shortly after an injury has occurred. The longer a person waits, the harder it can be to fix any damage that’s been done.

Common Safety Precautions

It’s often possible to avoid head injuries by following basic safety precautions, like wearing helmets while biking, riding a motorcycle, or engaging in any high-impact activity, including many team sports. People who wear seatbelts in cars can sometimes also avoid head injuries that result from ejection of jostling in case of an accident.

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Discuss this Article

anon947968
Post 23

I fell flat on my face onto concrete in my garden three weeks ago. I broke my nose which has since been reset. I also hit my forehead really hard and had a huge lump on it. However it is still very bruised and has a large, soft, strange shaped lump on it. It feels very tight and heavy. Should I go back to my GP?

anon357118
Post 22

I was hit head on and then knocked into another vehicle sitting still. I'm tall and hit the side of the bar between the front and back door twice. It's been close to a year and I still have a knot on the back of my head. When I apply pressure (sitting in recliner), I will go to sleep. I experience burning and tenderness.

The recent MRI showed nothing to be worried about -- my doctor's words. My eyes continue to bother me at night, as well. Will a CT scan show anything different from a MRI? My doctor says not to worry about it, but I've never had problems like this until I had this auto accident.

anon337999
Post 21

I read some of the comments but I am confused by the way I feel after my injury. I love hiking and two years ago I went hiking, forgetting it rained heavily the day before. While heading to the mountains, a tree branch filled with water came down from the sky and hit me in my head and I began screaming. Immediately I went under running water. My face was swollen and blood came down from my teeth. I suffered for a week and couldn't sleep because I felt liquid inside my head running all over my back face and wherever it ran it burned my skin.

I had a CT scan and they said I'm fine and I went to a neurologist and he said I was just angry and that the burning and headache will go away. It's been two years now and I am still waiting for it to go away. I'm living with the burning and headaches. You can even see when it is unbearable through my eyes. They get blood red. I need some help!

anon305293
Post 19

When I was 11, I was in an accident which left me into a coma. When I came out of the hospital, there were places I ran away from. I had an accident which turned out badly and I have reoccurring dreams from what happened, but am not sure about it all. I am alone in there society. I acted like a child.

anon300056
Post 17

I fell backward and hit my head so badly. But the weird thing is I don't have a bump or wounds. Is this serious?

anon300037
Post 16

My name is Sajad and I am from India. I got a head injury in my childhood when I was about seven or eight years old and got seven stitches in my head. After passing 12th standard and in my first job, I became the victim of the obsessional OCD, a type of a disorder in which the person asks himself so many questions and tries to find out answers of the very questions in order satisfy himself, but when one question is solved another question is raised automatically in my mind and this has made a mess of my entire career.

I want to get rid of the situation very quickly. The questions which get raised in my mind are like, how do I speak, how I read silently, do I feel hot or cold, how to move my limbs and most of time I spend in solving such questions. If I do try to solve these, they create anxiety in my brain. Despite all of this mess, I am a student of the arts or humanities background (having studied only geography, history and political science). How can I satisfy these questions because these are concepts related to the brain and hence, neurosciences. Please tell me if it all is because of the brain injury that I got in the childhood or is it something else?

anon299698
Post 15

My mom had a nasty fall and really banged her head on the concrete step. The side of her face was black and blue and she was very confused for about two or three hours after, then she got better.

It happened three weeks ago, but since then she is having a lot of problems with short term memory. Should she see a doctor? She insists she doesn't want to, but is it serious? She hit the side of her head on her eye and brow. It was a heavy trip up the step.

anon292062
Post 14

I fainted at school the other day and fell backward off of a high stool and smashed my head on the floor. There is a big lump on the back of my head, but it doesn't hurt at all, no bruising or tenderness. Is that normal?

anon289668
Post 13

I was playing with my boyfriend and the bed is next to a cement wall. By mistake he carried me to the bed and I hit the right side of my head. Should I worried?

anon289576
Post 12

When I was a child I would always fall from a lot of different places. I would always get hit in the back of my head or on the sides of my head. Once, I fell so hard I started bleeding. I never got it checked out. I have problems with remembering things now that I'm in high school, and I have constant headaches. I also don't see very well.

anon287523
Post 11

When I was entering the car, Ii hit myself in the head with the top part. Should I be worried?

anon272561
Post 10

My son just turned 26. He is still living at home and is in a 12 step program for narcotics. We got into a huge argument last night which lead me to believe he may have relapsed.

During the argument, he destroyed a fan and other things in his room and went into the bathroom where he slammed his head into the wall. He has done that before into a cement wall and it frightens me to death. How do I stop this behavior and get him some help? This is not normal. What can I do?

Sara007
Post 9

If you have a child in any kind of contact sports the chance of them getting a concussion at some point is pretty high. I find that if you have a good coach they will bench your son or daughter as a precaution after a knock to the head. While not everyone does this it is a good idea because often children want to keep playing even after they have just smashed their head off the ground.

It is a good idea to teach your kids that if they feel weird after taking a hit that they need to sit down and see if it passes. If not, they really need to go see a doctor in case it is a more severe concussion. With head injuries it is better to be safe than sorry.

letshearit
Post 8

I have always been a bit clumsy and have had a few head injuries in my time, usually from coming up under an open cabinet door or misjudging my way out of a car. Often I don't get badly injured, but I have had a few mild concussions in my time. If you have a mild head injury it is a good idea to take the doctor's advice and rest, as you can make yourself quite sick by not listening. I also make sure to keep an icepack on my bumps because if I don't they tend to swell like crazy and hurt even more.

If you have a headache after getting a mild head injury I find taking an over the counter pain killer really helps to numb the site and make you feel better overall.

surfNturf
Post 7

@Cafe41 - I was watching a program about a man that had developed amnesia as a result of a brain injury. The victim was robbed and the perpetrator hit him over the head and stole his wallet. When the police found the victim they tried to help him but he did not know who he was.

Since his identification was stolen, and he had no short term memory he had a hard time rebuilding his life. A nurse befriended him at the hospital and luckily he was able to live with her, but he still does not remember any details of his past. It was incredibly sad to watch someone that really had no living memories with him and had his entire past erased like that. I could not believe that no one had reported him missing.

cafe41
Post 6

@Sunshine31 - I know what you mean. I am always afraid of my kids bumping their head on something. I wanted to say that I was reading an article about head injuries and it really depends on the where the origin of the head injury is because a whole slew of different symptoms can occur.

For example, if you receive a traumatic head injury on the forehead you may have a hard time doing tasks that require more than one step. You may even become paralyzed and have a hard time expressing yourself in words.

But if you are injured in the back of the head you will have problems with your vision. You will not be able to see color and will also develop a hard time conducting any writing and reading activities.

If you are hit on the side of the head you will have a hard time recognizing people and have severe loss of short term memory. You also may have a problems understanding words that are spoken to you, and it can also affect your long term memory.

sunshine31
Post 5

Sunny27 - Wow, I didn’t know that that was possible. I know that head injuries in children are really serious because their brains are in the state of development. I had to take my son to the pediatrician because a boy accidentally slipped and hit him in the head with his teeth and they told me that I should really observe him during the first 24 hours to make sure that the injury was not serious.

The doctor told me that the symptoms of a head injury involved excessive sleepiness, headaches, and moodiness. Luckily my son was fine. I had to take him back to the doctor within 48 hours of his initial check up and was told that he did not suffer any neurological damage.

A pediatric head injury is really scary so it is better to be safe than sorry and go to the doctor if your child has suffered a blow to the head.

Sunny27
Post 4

I just wanted to say that I was reading about traumatic head injuries and depending on where the head injury is it could really affect a person’s personality. I was reading that the person suffering from a head injury can develop a strong sense of anger and become more impulsive as a result of the injury.

Their personality can change dramatically and they can have difficulty expressing any kind of emotion. This could be really hard on the victim’s loved ones because the injury can damage their emotions as well.

I thought that brain injuries only affected the concentration and cognitive abilities of the victim. I was surprised to see how it also affects their personality as well. They also say that some people might even lose their inhibitions and really seem to act out of character than they did before.

shell4life
Post 3

I suffered a hematoma while running from a snake in the dark. I had just stepped out of my car when I heard the hissing noise and saw the slithering thing headed toward my foot. The cloudy night blocked out even the starlight, and in my rush to escape, I ran smack into a brick wall.

Luckily, my sister heard me scream, found me passed out cold, and took me to the hospital. The doctor diagnosed me with a hematoma.

Treatment for hematoma involves the acronym RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Other forms of treatment are application of heat and ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Since I was already on anti-coagulation medicine, I could not take ibuprofen, because it could have caused gastrointestinal bleeding. So, I took acetaminophen and a good dose of RICE.

lighth0se33
Post 2

Every time my infant bumps her head, I worry because of the soft spots. These spots are parts of the skull that have not yet grown together all the way. Soft spots allow for the rapid growth that occurs after birth.

I know that not every little bump is cause for concern, so I looked up the warning signs of a serious head injury in a baby. If a baby cries for over 10 minutes, vomits over and over, bleeds from the nose or ears, drips clear liquid from the ears or nose, or swells rapidly right above the ear, then the parent should seek immediate medical attention. The baby could suffer seizures, neck pain, a skull indentation, behavioral changes, or a large bump.

cloudel
Post 1

My child is accident prone and falls a lot. The first few times he injured his head, I took him to the doctor. However, I started to see that the bumps could have been treated at home.

Children fall and bump their heads a lot, and it is tempting to take them to the doctor every time for safety’s sake. However, most falls injure the scalp only. If your child does not pass out, vomit, or behave strangely after the fall, then the child is probably alright.

Though the blood loss from a bump to the head may seem great, children hardly ever lose a dangerous amount of blood from head falls. The skin of the scalp and face are very full of blood vessels, so cuts to these areas will bleed more than other areas.

The best thing you can do if your child bumps his head and bleeds is fill a plastic ziplock bag with ice, wrap it in a cloth, and apply cold pressure to the bump. The ice will keep the bump from swelling too much, and the pressure will clot the bleeding wound.

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