What is a closed head injury?

A closed head injury is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in which the skull and the membrane that surrounds it are still intact. Closed head injuries include concussions, cerebral contusions, diffuse axonal injury, and intracranial hematomas. Of the approximately 1.7 million TBIs that occur each year in the United States, about 75 percent are thought to be closed head injuries.

Types of Closed Head Injuries

  1. A cerebral contusion is bruised brain tissue. It happens when a traumatic brain injury causes several small blood vessels to rupture and blood leaks into the brain. About 20 to 30 percent of TBIs result in cerebral contusion. This condition causes swelling on the brain and treatment measures are generally aimed at reducing the swelling.
  2. Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is an injury that occurs in severe TBIs in which the white matter of the brain becomes covered with lesions. More than 90 percent of people who receive DAIs enter a coma and do not regain consciousness. Those who do regain consciousness can be severely physically and cognitively compared. DAIs are most commonly caused by automobile accidents.
  3. Intracranial hematoma is a term that describes any bleeding inside the skull. Subdural hematoma occurs when a ruptured blood vessel leaks blood into the brain tissue, and epidural hematoma occurs when blood leaks between the skull and the brain. All types of intracranial hematoma can cause swelling on the brain, which can be life-threatening and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Causes of Closed Head Injuries

Closed head injuries can be caused by acts of violence, automobile accidents, falls, and injuries incurred from playing sports. The single leading cause of closed head injuries is falling, which accounts for around 35 percent of these injuries. Children under the age of four and adults over the age of 75 are most at risk for falls. A concussion, in which the normal function of the brain is temporarily disrupted, is most commonly caused by a sports injury.

Symptoms of Closed Head Injuries

Some of the immediate symptoms common in all the types of closed head injuries include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting

Head injuries that result in coma, loss of consciousness, or seizures should be considered as medical emergencies and treated immediately.

Effects of Closed Head Injuries

The effects of a closed head injury can include physical, psychological, and cognitive impairment. Athletes who sustain multiple closed head injuries over a period of hours, days, or weeks can suffer from cognitive deficits, neurological dysfunction, and even death as a result. Another cause of closed head injuries are blast incidents such as those incurred by members of the military in combat situations.

Closed head injuries are the leading cause of death for children under the age of four. Among young people, closed head injuries are the leading cause of cognitive impairment and physical disabilities.

About half of closed injury patients experience some type of psychological disruption. Issues may include anxiety disorders such as panic disorders or specific phobias and/or depression or loss of self esteem.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a closed head injury as the result of someone else’s actions, you’re urged to consult a personal injury attorney such as the Trip and fall lawyer Las Vegas, NV locals trust. An attorney can advise you of your rights, including any compensation you may be entitled to under the law.


Thanks to authors at Nadia Von Magdenko for their insight into Personal Injury Law.