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What Is a Closed Head Injury?



Closed head injuries are commonly caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, physical assaults and sports injuries. What exactly is a closed head injury and how do you recognize one?

A closed head injury is an injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head or a sudden shaking of the head that causes the brain to knock against the inside of the skull. Unlike other types of injuries, there may be no outward signs of the injury such as cuts, bruises or other types of damage to the skin. Serious closed head injuries can result in chronic headaches; loss of sensation, vision, taste, hearing or smell; speech and language problems; seizures, paralysis and coma.

The symptoms of a closed head injury can be seen immediately or can take several days to become noticeable. Complications from bleeding or swelling of the brain are often not visible. What should you look for if you or a family member may have a head injury?

  • Severe headache or neck stiffness
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Unusual drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness, no matter how brief
  • Abnormal behavior, such as increased irritability, restlessness, confusion or personality changes
  • Slurred speech and/or blurred vision
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Changes in sizes of pupils
  • Symptoms improve, then suddenly get worse

If any of these symptoms appear, you should immediately seek medical treatment. Even if no symptoms are apparent, any accident victim should be closely watched for the next 24 hours to see if symptoms do appear. The National Institutes of Health recommends that when the person goes to sleep, he or she should be wakened every two to three hours to check for alertness by asking them for his or her name. Children who begin to play or run immediately after receiving a bump on the head are unlikely to have been injured but should be closely watched for 24 hours. Mild headaches may be treated with acetaminophen but do NOT use aspirin or ibuprofen, which can increase the risk for bleeding. Do not drink alcohol within 48 hours of a possible head injury.

If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, seek immediate medical attention and consult with a competent attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.

For more information on this subject, go to: National Institutes of Health