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People who have been in accidents are often unaware that their brains have been injured; when the head is subject to trauma, such as when it is struck by something or even just violently shaken, brain tissue can be damaged, such as shearing of neurons and axons.

Millions of people suffer a head injury every year. Most of these injuries are minor because the skull provides the brain with protection. But, more than half a million head injuries a year are severe enough to require hospitalization.

Head injury is a general term used to describe any trauma to the head, most specifically to the brain itself. A head injury is a trauma that leads to injury of the brain, scalp or skull. Injuries can range from a minor bump on the skull to serious brain injury.

Head injuries are classified as closed or open:

A closed head injury means the person received a hard blow to the head from striking an object, but the object did not break the skull.

An open, or penetrating, head injury means the person was struck with an object that broke the skull and entered the brain. This typically happens when moving at high speed, such as going through the windshield during a car crash.

Common Types of brain injuries:

Concussion, the most common type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), may be diagnosed but sometimes it is not recognized in the emergency room. Some brain tissue injuries are not detected on a CT scan or MRI.

Contusion, a bruise on the brain

Hematoma, damage of a blood vessel in the brain and the consequent heavy bleeding around the brain, leads to hematoma.

According to government health sites and sources, patients and their family members should watch for and be concerned with the following signs or symptoms:

Symptoms of head injury can be immediate or develop slowly over several hours or even days. Actress Natasha Richardson comes to mind. After her fall on a ski slope, she was up and talking not long after "trained" personnel decided she was fine. But she died two days later from "blunt impact" to the head which caused an epidural hematoma when she fell.

Below are symptoms that suggest a more serious head injury and require immediate emergency medical treatment:

Changes in personality or behavior (especially in children)

Trouble understanding things


Fluid draining from the nose, mouth or ears (it may appear clear or bloody)

Inability to move one or more limbs

Loss of consciousness, confusion, or drowsiness

Severe headache

Slurred speech and/ or blurred vision

This is by no means an exhaustive list of signs and symptoms as each injury is different in nature and severity. Nor is it intended to be medical advice. If you or a family member has suffered a head injury it is best to seek emergency medical treatment.

Early medical intervention or neuropsychological therapy can make a difference in how well the patient can recover or cope with brain injury and problems such as cognitive deficits.


  1. Gravatar for Michael Phelan

    One can suffer a "closed- head injury" without sustaining a blow to the head by an object. A closed-head injury occurs when the soft tissue of the brain is forced into contact with the skull. The cause of the contact between brain and skull can be a violent shaking or acceleration-deceleration force without a blow to the outside of the skull.

  2. Gravatar for Rick Shapiro

    I agree with you Michael,

    Even trained medical personnel can miss the signs of brain trauma.

    Just like in the case you pointed out of Natasha Richardson, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have devastating effects on the victim and some of these effects like persistent migraines, memory loss, or slower mental cognition may not be immediately obvious.

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