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Chances are you've bumped your head before. Often, the injury is minor because your skull is hard and it protects your brain. But other head injuries can be more severe, such as a skull fracture, concussion, or traumatic brain injury.
Head injuries can be open or closed. A closed injury does not break through the skull. With an open, or penetrating, injury, an object pierces the skull and enters the brain. Closed injuries are not always less severe than open injuries.
Some common causes of head injuries are falls, motor vehicle accidents, violence, and sports injuries.
It is important to know the warning signs of a moderate or severe head injury. Get help immediately if the injured person has:
- A headache that gets worse or does not go away
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Convulsions or seizures
- An inability to wake up
- Dilated (enlarged) pupil in one or both eyes
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- Loss of coordination
- Increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation
Doctors use a neurologic exam and imaging tests to make a diagnosis. Treatment depends on the type of injury and how severe it is.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- Overview of Head Injuries (Merck & Co., Inc.) Also in Spanish
- Signs of a Head Injury (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
Diagnosis and Tests
- Computed Tomography (CT) -- Head (American College of Radiology; Radiological Society of North America) Also in Spanish
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) -- Head (American College of Radiology; Radiological Society of North America) Also in Spanish
- Skull Radiography (American Society of Radiologic Technologists) - PDF - In English and Spanish
- Ultrasound: Head (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
Treatments and Therapies
- Head Trauma, First Aid (VisualDX)
- Head Trauma: First Aid (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Intracranial hematoma (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Craniocerebral Trauma (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Head Injuries (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Skull Fractures (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Educational and employment outcomes associated with childhood traumatic brain injury in...
- Article: Initial CT Imaging Predicts Mortality in Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries in...
- Article: Association between maxillofacial fractures and brain injuries in trauma patients: a...
- Head Injuries -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Head Injuries (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Head injury - first aid (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Skull fracture (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish