Head injury

  • Definition

    A head injury is any trauma that leads to injury of the scalp, skull, or brain. The injuries can range from a minor bump on the skull to serious brain injury.

    Head injury is classified as either closed or open (penetrating).

    • A closed head injury means you received a hard blow to the head from striking an object, but the object did not break the skull.
    • An open, or penetrating, head injury means you were hit with an object that broke the skull and entered the brain. This usually happens when you move at high speed, such as going through the windshield during a car accident. It can also happen from a gunshot to the head.

    Head injuries include:

    • Concussion, the most common type of traumatic brain injury, in which the brain is shaken
    • Contusion, which is a bruise on the brain
    • Scalp wounds
    • Skull fractures

    See also:

    • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
    • Subdural hematoma

    Alternative Names

    Brain injury; Head trauma; Concussion


    Every year, millions of people have a head injury. Most of these injuries are minor because the skull provides the brain with considerable protection. The symptoms of minor head injuries usually go away on their own. More than half a million head injuries a year, however, are severe enough to require hospitalization.

    Learning to recognize a serious head injury and give basic first aid can make the difference in saving someone's life.


    Common causes of head injury include traffic accidents, falls, physical assault, and accidents at home, work, outdoors, or while playing sports.