Broadly speaking there are a few different types of head injury, all with their own prognoses and treatments. They are:
Concussions are a common way in which people sustain an injury. They occur when someone has a bump on the head, usually making them lose consciousness for a period of time. Sometimes they are not knocked out, however, but suffer other symptoms like confusion and dizziness.
Concussions can happen at any time, for example as the result of a fall at home, but also they are seen on the sports field, particularly in contact sports like rugby and American football, as well as accidents at work and collisions involving vehicles.
Common symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness. This can be brief or over a longer period of time
- Ongoing headaches after the injury
- Confusion, including forgetfulness and feeling disorientated
- Loss of memory, particularly the ability to remember new things
- Sudden problems with balance and dizziness
- Finding it hard to speak clearly and slurring your words
- Problems with vision, including finding it hard to read a book or magazine
Concussions can be worse under certain conditions, including if the person suffering the concussion is elderly, if they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, or if they bleed easily, either through haemophilia or through taking anti-coagulant medication which stops blood clotting.
People who suffer a concussion will need to go to hospital – usually Accident and Emergency (A&E) – and may need to be monitored for up to two days. This is because the symptoms listed above could be signs of a more such as a subdural haematoma or subarachnoid haemorrhage.
This a rather scary-sounding name for a condition in which blood pools between the surface of the brain and the skull. Its symptoms are very like that of a severe concussion, including feeling sick, having a headache and getting confused for no reason.
These symptoms can develop straight away, especially after a major head injury, or they can develop slowly in the weeks following a minor one. People experiencing these symptoms should get to A&E or call an ambulance as soon as possible, as this can be considered a serious injury.
Another scary name. This refers to an injury caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain. Fortunately, it isn’t very common, but the NHS says it makes up around one in 20 strokes affecting people in the UK. There are usually no warning signals and symptoms can happen instantly.
The causes vary, but can be caused by exerting yourself like lifting something heavy or doing hard exercise, and the symptoms include feeling sick, blurred vision and a very bad, sudden headache.
Unlike in the above examples, you can see straight away when someone has suffered an open-head injury, because the injured person will have either violently hit their head or an object has pierced their skull.
It is sometimes called a penetrating head injury and it can have a number of different causes, such as falls, workplace accidents and violent crime. The symptoms and treatments vary greatly, depending on how bad the injury is and where it is on the head.
Diffuse axonal injury
This is an injury in which the connections between cells in the brain get broken. It can occur when the head is jolted around in an accident such as a car accident. It can be described as a “shearing injury”, as the brain moves back and forth inside the head. Sadly, it is a major cause of and can have serious consequences for those who survive a road traffic accident.