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Head Injury Management for Sports First Aid

head injury

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Head injury can result in bleeding, torn tissues, and brain damage. People should take it seriously as it can result in long-term complications or death.

A person suspected of injury to the head must be removed from the game immediately and undergo an assessment by a doctor. Erring on the side of caution is essential to avoid sudden death or severe damages.


Sports-related Head Injury

An estimate of about 3,000 hospitalizations occurs from sports-related head injury every year. These include concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Amongst Australian children and adolescents, sports and recreational activities contribute to a higher percentage of these types of damages.

Sustaining an injury while playing on the field can range from mild physical trauma (cuts, scrapes, lacerations) to severe brain damages (brain bleeding or trauma). It is vital to recognize and differentiate a superficial injury from a major one to seek the proper medical attention in these situations.

While most mild head injuries are self-limiting, with symptoms only lasting for a week, research seems to prove otherwise. It shows that recurrent minor impacts from a blow or jolt to the head are significant in the long run if left without treatment.


Signs and Symptoms

These injuries can involve parts of the head, including the brain, scalp, skull, and blood vessels. The damages can be internal or external, or possibly both.

External injuries may result in a fractured, broken skull, while internal damage can cause bleeding within the cranium.

The appearance of blood may not be a reliable indicator of the extent of the head injury. Apart from apparent external wounds, other symptoms may include:


Altered consciousness

The person may lose consciousness for a certain period or feel tired or confused. In some cases, the person may also experience a brief seizure. These symptoms can change by improving within minutes and deteriorating later on.


Deformities in the skull

Skull deformities or compressions are signs of fracture and severe injuries. In these cases, surgical intervention is necessary to help correct the deformity.


Clear fluids (from the nose, ears)

A skull fracture, particularly in the base area, can cause the cerebrospinal fluid (from the brain and spinal cord) to leak from the nose and ears.


Bruises and black eyes

The appearance of bruises behind the ears and having black eyes indicate a severe rupture. The force of the blow was sufficient to tear the blood vessels surrounding the eyes and ears.


Vision changes

Noce that the pupil of the eyes may be enlarged or dilated. The person may also experience double or blurry vision.


Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of severe head injury. If these symptoms person, it is best to see a doctor.


First Aid for Head Injury

Head injuries require immediate treatment as there may be damages to the brain. The symptoms may not be evident in some instances and should appear hours or days following the injury.

Types of head injuries such as concussion, compression, or skull fracture may be complex for a first aider to determine or differentiate.

Therefore, all injuries to the head follow the same first aid treatment.


  • Assess the patient

Do a patient assessment and check whether the person is fully conscious or unconscious.


First Aid for an unconscious patient:

Encourage the victim to stay still and minimize any movement involving the head or neck. Ask what they are feeling and do a checklist of the above symptoms.


First Aid for an unconscious patient:

Do not move an unconscious victim unless there is an immediate risk or danger. Further movement may only cause more significant injuries to the head, the spinal cord, or any link injuries.

A good rule to stick in mind is if the head suffers from the injury, the neck may be too.


In cases where there is a severe head injury, always call Triple Zero (000).


  • Give First Aid until the arrival of the ambulance.

If necessary, perform wound care and stop the bleed with a sterile dressing. Cover the area with a clean cloth if there is any discharge coming from the nose or ears. Try to control the bleeding as early as possible.

For a suspected fractured skull, use a bandage to cover the wound. Make sure to do it without applying pressure. Do not attempt to remove any foreign object as it might cause more trauma than simply leaving it in place.

For minor head injuries, follow the RICE method. Rest, apply ice to the area of swelling, compression, and elevation.

In a suspected minor head injury, apply ice to the area of swelling, and observe the person for at least 24 hours. There may be a delay in symptoms in some cases of severe head trauma.


  • Monitor the patient’s condition.

Continue to monitor the casualty for at least 24 hours and observe any changes in the level of response. Check for breathing and prepare to administer CPR if necessary.



A severe head injury is a medical emergency. It is best to take the person to the nearest hospital if there are bleeding or suspicion of damages to the brain and spinal cord.

For mild head injury, taking a rest and receiving first aid treatment may be sufficient. However, it is best to seek medical advice for developing signs and symptoms.

Learning how to recognize injury to the head and give basic first Aid can save lives. Consider getting first aid training for people at home and in the workplace.

First Aid Training teaches participants how to recognize symptoms, manage headaches, and seek medical help.

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