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Accidentally hitting your head on the car roof while getting into the car may not seem like a big deal, but doctors advise you to take it more seriously.

What Happens If You Hit Your Head Really Hard

What Happens If You Hit Your Head Really Hard

Head injuries are brought up left and right, and for good reason. Our brain is the control center for the rest of our body – any injury to it can have severe effects on the rest of our health.

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The headlines have been a painful reminder that seemingly harmless accidents can have devastating consequences. Actor Bob Saget recently passed away from a concussion, reminding the world that neglecting a head injury can have fatal consequences. “[Bob] accidentally hit something in the back of his head and went to sleep without thinking anything of it,” Saget’s family said in a statement to E. news. Drugs and alcohol were not involved, they added.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagoviloa left last season with a concussion to the head. His battle with multiple concussions in one season has fueled controversy over concussion protocols in the NFL.

Head injuries don’t just happen to actors and football players – they can happen to anyone, at any time. That’s why it’s so important to understand how seriously something should be taken when something happens.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2.5 million Americans go to the hospital each year with some type of head injury. The most common causes of head injuries include falls and car accidents. According to Harvard Medical School, men are, in fact, more vulnerable: they are four times more likely to injure their heads than women.

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“As humans, we hit our heads a lot. Our skulls are said to have evolved to withstand injury. Not all hits apply. We usually have no sequelae,” says Mayo Clinic neurologist Rodolfo Savica, MD, although permanent damage is less common and can still occur.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that causes temporary brain dysfunction (ie, concussion symptoms – more on that later) that almost always resolves over time. A blow or blow to the head causes rapid movement of the brain within the skull, leading to changes in brain function. The word comes from the Latin words “concutere,” which means “to shake violently,” or “concussus,” which means “the act of striking together,” Savika explains.

According to the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, five out of 10 concussions go unreported or undiagnosed. Edward Benzel, MD, a neurosurgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. says, “Clinically significant head injuries, even minor ones, are relatively common. “People may not even realize they have a concussion. Otherwise players will hide injuries from their coach.”

What Happens If You Hit Your Head Really Hard

Even though the risk of a single concussion is small, a large portion of severe brain injuries today are caused by an undiagnosed or improperly managed concussion, Benzel says, because serious problems can arise if it recurs. “Five to 10 minutes after a concussion, an athlete will feel better and bounce back — and then bond again,” he says.

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Repeated concussions can cause longer recovery times and more severe symptoms. According to the CDC, long-term problems such as concentration, balance, memory and headaches are also possible.

So, how do you protect yourself? Here’s a checklist to follow if you hit your head hard:

Yes, a significant blow to the head or other serious injury can lead to trauma, but never mind minor incidents. According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, repeated concussions or multiple small bumps to the head can be just as damaging as a single injury. If you feel like you’ve messed up your head significantly, or if people around you have observed an alarming effect, it’s a good idea to check yourself for a possible concussion. If you experience a minor stroke, it is helpful to rest afterwards to prevent further effects. If minor strokes occur repeatedly, do not hesitate to see a doctor.

Remember that the way you hurt yourself is not necessarily related to the severity of your injury. “A common cause of severe brain injury is when an intoxicated person falls off a bar stool in a pub. They only fall 3 feet, but they hit their head on the ground, causing severe brain injuries or even death,” says Benzel.

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Concussion symptoms are not always completely clear, and they often do not last long. “Sometimes after a concussion people stumble and don’t think clearly or remember the last play. It usually resolves very quickly, but deserves complete withdrawal on the off chance of another injury,” Benzel says.

If you experience any symptoms of shock – even if they are minor or short-lived – it is a good idea to see a doctor for a diagnosis and observe for a few hours until you return to your normal state.

“Generally speaking, it’s better to seek medical attention right away, especially when head trauma is associated with loss of consciousness” or when it’s accompanied by other concussive symptoms, Savika says.

What Happens If You Hit Your Head Really Hard

If symptoms of shock persist or worsen in the following hours, see a doctor as soon as possible. “It could be a sign of something developing, like a blood clot in the brain, which is very rare but does happen,” says Benzel.

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If you have what Benzel calls a sub-concussive stroke, remember that concussion symptoms can sometimes emerge six or seven hours after an accident. Again, go to the ER. “It can be a more serious injury than [you] think,” Benzel says.

Have someone else observe your behavior. Other people may notice changes in our speech, balance, pupil size, and general behavior. If you hit your head hard when you’re alone, have a friend or family member come over to help keep an eye on you.

If you don’t have one, it’s worth going to a doctor or scheduling a telemedicine appointment later that day.

Very rarely, a skull fracture caused by a serious blow to the head can cause life-threatening bleeding (hemorrhage) and/or a blood clot (epidural or subdural hematoma). You will always be diagnosed initially with a shock. Benzel recommends always double-checking for symptoms:

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With an epidural hemorrhage, or subcranial blood clot, you’ll wake up from your shock and even feel like you’ve recovered, Benzel explains. However, rupturing a vein slowly causes a blood clot to form over the next minutes to hours, causing progressive neurological impairment that can lead to coma or death. It’s sometimes called the “talk and die” syndrome, because “about once a year in American football, a player gets hit for the first time in a game and doesn’t recognize a concussion. They get hit again, get back up, talk, die,” Benzel says.

Benzel notes that while epidural hemorrhages are relatively rare, especially in sports, there are few cases. For example, in 1920, Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman was hit by a pitched ball, got up with a concussion, collapsed with a concussion, and died within hours of recovering enough to continue playing. “That’s why short-term monitoring is so important,” says Benzel.

A subdural hematoma, or blood clot in the brain, is another relatively uncommon brain injury, usually from a car or motorcycle accident or a serious fall. The resulting shock would knock one down for the count as a severe hemorrhage from an artery would quickly lead to devastating consequences within minutes or hours afterward.

What Happens If You Hit Your Head Really Hard

Both types of hematoma are usually recognized immediately with symptoms. However, a mild head injury in the elderly can cause an initially asymptomatic chronic subdural hematoma that worsens over several weeks as the clot expands. “In the elderly this happens because the brain shrinks as you age, making you more exposed to tremors and shock. Vessels may break. They might bleed a little bit, and after a while, until it collects and they need some kind of procedure,” Benzel says.

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After an injury, watch for symptoms of a concussion for the next few weeks to ensure you have fully recovered. Even if you hit your head hard but don’t think you have a concussion, it’s possible to have a brain injury and not know it. “Concussion usually does not cause major symptoms, and some symptoms may develop days to weeks after the concussion. Similarly, a hematoma can be silent and occur without obvious initial symptoms,” says Savica.

And if you’ve been diagnosed with a concussion, see your doctor as recommended, usually about a week later. It’s important to wait until your symptoms have completely resolved and you’ve been cleared by a specialist to return to any activities where you can hit your head again, such as team sports.


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