What to Do if You Hit Your Head, and When to Seek Care

Hit Your Head

Hit Your Head

You should seek medical attention right away if you suffer from “red flag” symptoms following a head injury. 

On January 9, comedian and actor Bob Saget were discovered unconscious in his hotel room after doing stand-up comedy in Orlando, Florida. He was declared dead at the scene.

According to a statement from his family to The Hollywood Reporter, the 65-year-old “accidentally banged the back of his head on something, thought nothing of it, and went to sleep,” according to a statement from his family to The Hollywood Reporter.

Many skull fractures and brain hemorrhages were discovered later in an autopsy report for Saget, as reported by The New York Times.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Saget’s life-threatening brain injury isn’t unusual: More than 61,000 individuals died from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in 2019.

Angela K. Lumba-Brown, MD, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine and neurosurgery at the Stanford School of Medicine, tells Health that most of these TBIs result from falls.

TBIs may lead to serious medical problems, including brain hemorrhaging, swelling, and death, but understanding when to seek immediate medical attention can be life-saving.

Learn about traumatic brain injuries and what to do if you bump your head on anything (particularly if you’re alone) by reading the information below.

Hit Your Head

Injuries to the head were explained.

Physical damage indicators, such as a sprained ankle or a bumped arm, may encourage you to seek medical assistance. However, there is no way to see damage to the brain.

George T. Chiampas, DO, associate professor of emergency medicine and orthopedic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells Health that “it’s really different from other injuries where you can see bruising on your skin or swelling in your ankle.”

So, it’s critical to recognize the onset of symptoms and take action as soon as they appear.

According to the CDC, a “bump, blow, or jolt to the head” may cause a traumatic brain injury. As Dr. Lumba-Brown explains to Health, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) may be caused by falls, direct impacts to the head, car accidents, or self-inflicted injuries (such as an assault or a suicide attempt).

The most frequent kind of TBI is a concussion, which is a mild TBI. According to Dr. Lumba-Brown, these mild TBIs may be caused by hitting your head on a cabinet door or collapsing while participating in a sport.

A brain scan will not reveal any signs of blood, bruising, or swelling, even if you are experiencing pain and neurological symptoms after a concussion. According to the CDC, people who share a concussion often recover within a few weeks.

On the other hand, if you have a moderate or severe TBI, it will appear on brain scans. Epidural and subdural hemorrhages are two examples of how TBI manifests, says Anthony P. Kontos, Ph.D., head of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

This kind of hemorrhage occurs because of a burst blood artery between the skull and the brain’s protective covering known as the dura mater.

Subdural hematomas occur when a blood artery between the skull’s dura mater and the region immediately outside the brain ruptures, resulting in bleeding (the arachnoid).

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says that moderate to severe TBIs may also involve concussions or bruising of the brain tissue; or hemorrhages, including intracerebral hemorrhages and subarachnoid hemorrhages, which occur when active bleeding is present (AANS).

The increased intracranial pressure that results from bleeding or swelling in the skull after a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be life-threatening, according to Dr. Chiampas.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, increased pressure in the brain may push on brain structures and impede blood flow, potentially resulting in serious brain injury or death.

A doctor should check you out if you have any concerns about the severity of your TBI. Because these hematomas may develop days or even weeks after a head injury, Kontos advises patients to look for any changes in their symptoms. Do not hesitate to seek medical attention if you see something amiss.

Who is most at risk for head injuries?

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) may affect anybody, but certain individuals are at more risk than others of experiencing more severe consequences.

According to Dr. Lumba-Brown, those who have a history of bleeding issues are more likely to have difficulties. More serious injuries may happen to those over 65 because they have weaker blood vessels and smaller brains than younger people.

In addition, those with osteopenia, a disorder that causes individuals to lose bone mass and increases the risk of skull fractures, are at high risk.

Another significant risk factor is blood thinners, such as aspirin. In the absence of clotting, “even little scrapes or bruises will be more likely to produce bleeding,” adds Kontos. “As a result, blood thinners may raise the risk of a brain hemorrhage.”

Dr. Chiampas adds that those who may have difficulties articulating their symptoms, such as youngsters, the elderly, those with memory or cognitive issues, and those with drug use disorders, are also at greater risk.

After a head injury, how soon should you see the doctor?

Even if the head injury is minor, it’s always good to get it checked out by a doctor. A strong correlation between a concussion and an increased risk of migraines, motion sickness, and anxiety/depression.

To ensure that your symptoms and impairments aren’t worsening over time, a doctor can help you monitor your symptoms and impairments.

It has been shown that people who suffer a slight brain injury and seek medical assistance within a week recover more quickly than those who wait longer. One research published in the American Medical Association (JAMA) supports this theory.

On the other hand, Kontos thinks that moderate and severe TBIs need immediate medical attention. As soon as you notice any of the following symptoms after a head injury, contact 911 or have someone bring you to the ER immediately:

For any length of time, a person may lose consciousness.

  • A pounding in my brain.
  • A student who is bigger than the other students
  • Dizziness
  • Instability or lack of coordination of any kind
  • Speech difficulties
  • Difficulty comprehending or making sense of things
  • Seizure (shaking or twitching) for any period
  • Drowsiness or inability to wake up
  • Nausea or vomiting regularly.

Dr. Lumba-Brown recommends that anybody who has had a head injury and is deemed at risk for consequences contact a doctor as soon as possible.

Additionally, you should take additional measures, such as alerting someone else about your head injury or phoning your doctor to determine when and where you should get care for your head injury.

It’s also a good idea to speak with your doctor if you’re worried about falling asleep after a head injury. As Dr. Lumba-Brown points out, “a medical expert can weigh in on whether or not you’re sleepy is normal or whether it’s indicative of progressive brain damage.”

Dr. Lumba-Brown stresses the importance of avoiding TBIs in the first place. Seat belts and helmets should be worn at all times while driving and when riding a motorcycle (like when riding a bike, skiing, or skateboarding).

Avoid dangerous habits like standing on chairs and climbing on counters or ladders while alone at home by keeping paths free, cleaning up spills as soon as they happen, not letting loose rugs accumulate on the floor, and so on.

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