What if it’s not just a ‘bump on the head’?

graphic of head trauma

The recent passing of comedian Bob Saget was found by officials to have been caused by an accidental head injury before the actor went to bed.

Dr. Matthew Burke, a cognitive neurologist and director of Sunnybrook’s Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, says while this outcome is a very rare occurrence, it’s important to take a cautious approach when it comes to head trauma.

“An injury to the head can be more serious than it first appears,” says Dr. Burke. “In some circumstances, there may be a brain bleed, also known as an intracranial hemorrhage, that has gone undetected and could need urgent medical evaluation.”

Dr. Burke says that seeking medical attention is always the safest bet, but it can also be helpful to tell someone that you’ve hit your head when it happens. Try to stay awake and/or have that person stay with you, especially in the hours immediately after the injury.

“Typically, the first six hours after a head trauma are the most critical. If the injury becomes more serious, and you’re awake and with someone, it’s easier to see if there are any growing problems, new deficits or other issues. If you’re asleep at the time, or if you’re alone, you may not know if symptoms are developing.”

Signs and symptoms to watch out for after a head injury

Dr. Burke adds it’s important to keep an eye out for the following signs and symptoms after head trauma, and to go the local hospital emergency department for help.

  • A severe or worsening headache.
  • Sudden or unusual drowsiness.
  • Difficulty carrying on a conversation.
  • Slurring of speech.
  • Weakness in limbs.
  • Dramatic change in personality.

“Individuals should also be aware of any major risk factors for the serious complications of head trauma, such as a brain bleed,” adds Dr. Burke. “If you’re already on blood thinning medications, or if you have a medical condition that is associated with bleeding in the body, take extra care. With a major head injury or concussion, going to their local hospital’s emergency department can help individuals receive proper monitoring, brain imaging if indicated, and treatment by a health-care team.”

About the author

Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer Palisoc is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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