What is a Closed Head Injury?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 April 2019
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Also known as CHI or nonpenetrating head trauma, a closed head injury is an injury to the brain that comes about due to a sharp blow or series of blows to the head. An injury of this type can be sustained as part of an accident, participation in a sports event, or in a combat situation. With this type of injury, there is an increased chance for brain swelling, concussions, and other issues that could be life-threatening. However, there is no penetrating wound involved in the injury; the damage is contained within the recesses of the skull.

When a blow to the head takes place, the force of the blow will often cause the brain to bounce within the skull. Depending on the degree of force sustained through the blow, or even vigorous shaking that causes the head to sharply move backward and forward, this can lead to several different types of brain injury, including swelling. Unless the problem is addressed quickly, there is the chance that the brain will be permanently damaged, and possibly lose the ability to direct such essential processes as breathing.


There are a number of ways to sustain a closed head injury. Vehicle accidents carry a great deal of potential for some type of head trauma. Collisions that jerk the head sharply upon impact can often lead to concussions that should be treated as soon as possible. Even an accident involving smaller forms of transportation, such as a bicycle or a motorbike, can lead to a closed head injury.

Participation in contact sports can also lead to a closed head injury. Sports such as boxing and American football are two examples. Helmets used in American football help to minimize the potential for injuring the brain during the course of play, but are not always a guarantee of safety. In like manner, it is possible to sustain head injuries of this type by misuse of equipment, such as mishandling the oars of a rowboat.

A closed head injury can also occur during the course of physical combat. Blunt traumas to the head as a result of struggles with an opponent, being struck by gun barrels, and a wide range of other events during wartime have resulted in traumas to the head that led to severe brain damage, and in some cases death. Even with protective gear, soldiers are still at an increased risk for sustaining this type of injury.

Swift medical attention after sustaining a closed head injury is extremely important. Physicians can use modern monitoring strategies to determine the extent of any brain swelling present, and take steps to relieve the pressure before the brain experiences additional damage by way of bruising. Even in situations where the concussion is considered minor, with only a small amount of swelling, it is not unusual for patients to be kept in a hospital overnight, where their condition can be monitored closely until the swelling subsides.



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