If you have sustained any kind of head injury, it is always advisable to seek medical attention immediately. A direct blow to the head can be a minor injury right through to something more serious or even death.
Head injuries include trauma to the head or brain, concussion, facial injuries, including the eyes and nose, and ear pain. Here we explain how to recognise and treat various head injuries, as well as when to seek medical attention.
On this page:
- Head injuries
- Nosebleed & facial injuries
- Eye injuries
- Ear Pain
Head injuries in sport can range from a mild headache up to a severe concussion, brain bleed or fractured skull. A head injury should always be taken seriously and medical attention should be sought. A Concussion is a common injury, especially in contact sports and should always be taken seriously, even if initially thought to be mild. A Concussion is an injury to the brain caused by a direct blow to the head, or from violent shaking causes the brain to ‘rattle around’ in the skull. Severe concussions can result in permanent brain injury or even death. Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, sickness, confusion, and disorientation, but the level of these symptoms vary significantly depending on the severity of the injury. Even what may appear to be a mild concussion should be treated seriously.
Headaches are common complaint vary in type, intensity, pattern, and location from person to person. The majority of headaches do not require medical attention. However, if the pain is new and unusual, or if you have regular headaches but they have changed in their pattern, intensity or frequency then get advice from a Doctor. Migraines are a severe form of a headache, usually accompanied by other symptoms including disturbance of vision, nausea, dizziness or pins and needles. It can be classified as with or without ‘Aura’. Aura is one or more other symptoms which usually occur before a migraine really sets in. Those who suffer regularly with migraines learn to see this as a warning signal.
A fractured skull is a break to one of the bones which form the head. Symptoms include bleeding from the eyes, ears or nose, bruising behind the ears or under the eyes, a straw coloured liquid draining from the eyes or ears, changes in pupil size, headaches, nausea and more. A brain bleed can be either acute or chronic and occur after a severe trauma to the head. Seek urgent medical attention with any head injury as they can be fatal.
Read more on head injuries.
Facial injuries include fractures of the bones of the face and jaw and are usually caused by direct impact or trauma. Nosebleeds occur, usually after an impact to the nose and may be associated with a fracture. However, they can occur after relatively minor injuries or be completely spontaneous. Bleeding may occur from either one or both nostrils and range from very light to heavy.
Facial fractures are breaks in any of the bones which form the face. Symptoms vary depending on location and severity, but generally include instant pain, swelling and bruising. The face may appear deformed or asymmetrical. Temporomandibular joint disorder is a problem involving the joint between the jaw bone (mandible) and the skull, located just in front of the ears. Symptoms include pain around the joint, which may radiate into the neck or jaw muscles. Their jaw may lock or have a clicking or clunking feeling. The patient will be unable to open the mouth wide.
Read more on facial injuries.
A black eye is a bruising of the soft tissues surrounding the eye following an impact or trauma to the eye. It may not be possible to fully open the eye and vision could be impaired in more serious cases.
A detached retina occurs when the lining at the back of the eye starts to pull away from the blood vessels at the back of the eye. If left untreated can lead to blindness. Symptoms include seeing ‘floaters’ or dark spots which appear to drift or float in front of the eye. A corneal laceration is a tear or cut of the front lining of the eyeball (cornea). It is usually caused by something sharp impacting into the eye. Symptoms of pain with the feeling that there may be something stuck in the eye.
A stye or hordeolum occurs when a gland on the eyelid becomes infected. Conjunctivitis or pink eye is an inflammation of the membrane covering the white of the eyes and the underside of the eyelids, of which there are numerous causes. The eye will have a bloodshot appearance and may irritate or feel like a burning pain. Eyelids may be swollen and the patient could feel as if they have grit in the eye.
A foreign body in the eye is simply something stuck in the eye that shouldn’t be there. This may be something which sticks to the front of the eye or gets trapped under the eyelids without actually entering the eye. Symptoms will include pain and a gritty feeling of something stuck in the eye. The eye will likely water considerably and vision is will be impaired. Hyphema is bleeding within the front chamber of the eye, between the iris and cornea, usually caused by a direct impact from a blunt object. Blood may be seen in the front of the eye and the patient will have partially, or sometimes fully, impaired vision with pain which increases as the pressure from bleeding increases.
Read more detail about eye injuries.
Ear pain & ear injuries
Ear pain causes include perforated eardrum (burst eardrum), glue ear, compacted ear wax, swimmers ear, and cauliflower ear. A burst eardrum is a tear of the eardrum in the inner ear. This is uncomfortable but usually heals on its own within a few weeks. Glue ear affects childhood and can cause some hearing loss. Swimmer’s ear or otitis externa is an infection of the skin which lines the ear canal, common in swimmers. Ear wax which is medically termed impacted cerumen is a build up of wax in the auditory canal causing discomfort and affected hearing, and is most common in children and older people. Cauliflower ear, also known as hematoma auris is a deformity of the outer ear caused by repetitive friction or impact.
Read more on ear pain and ear injuries.