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What to Do After a Head Injury

If you hurt your head — in a fall, by heading a ball, or by running into someone, for example — there are some things you should know. Many head injuries are mild and don’t cause any problems, but some are more serious and can lead to a concussion. A concussion is a brain injury that leads to symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and confusion.

It’s important to know if you have a concussion so you can get the right treatment. Not doing so can make the symptoms worse or last longer. And getting another concussion before you heal from the first one can be dangerous.

What Should I Do Right After a Head Injury?

If you hurt your head while playing a sport, stop playing right away. If you're skiing or snowboarding, get the ski patrol to help you down the hill. If you're skateboarding or biking, stop riding. Don't take a chance on hurting your head again. A second head injury can lead to a condition called second-impact syndrome. Second-impact syndrome doesn't happen very often, but it can cause lasting brain damage and even death.

Be sure the coach, athletic trainer, a parent, or another trusted adult knows you hit your head so they can help you watch for symptoms of a concussion.

If you hurt your head playing organized sports, a coach or athletic trainer may examine you right after your injury. This is known as sideline testing because it might happen on the sidelines during a game. Sideline testing is common in schools and sports leagues. By watching you and doing a few simple tests, a trained person can see if you need medical care.

What Should I Watch for After a Head Injury?

Some symptoms of a concussion show up right after the injury. Others can take hours or even days to appear. 

Symptoms can include:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • feeling sick or throwing up
  • trouble with coordination or balance
  • blurred vision
  • slurred speech or saying things that don't make sense
  • feeling confused and dazed
  • trouble concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
  • trouble remembering things
  • feeling sleepy
  • having trouble falling asleep
  • sleeping less or more than usual
  • feeling anxious or irritable for no clear reason
  • feeling sad or more emotional than usual

If you have any of these symptoms, see a health care provider (such as a doctor, nurse, or physician assistant) right away to get checked.

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date Reviewed: Feb 10, 2023

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