Brain Contusion: Definition & Symptoms

Instructor: Heidi Howerton

Heidi has written education material for a well known hospital's pediatric neurosurgery unit and has her Bachelor's of Science degree in nursing.

In this lesson we will define what a brain contusion is and learn about the different types of brain contusion injuries. We will also examine what causes a brain contusion to occur and look at what symptoms accompany brain contusions.

Introduction

Jackson, a 16 year old male, is a running back on his high school's football team. During one hot Sunday afternoon, Jackson and his teammates were playing around in Jackson's backyard without any protective gear. The whistle blew and the play started. Jackson caught the ball and began his sprint down the yard. Out of nowhere a player from the opposite team ran straight into Jackson. Jackson flipped across the players body and came crashing down on his head. Everyone stopped. Jackson just lay there in the yard not moving. His friends and parents came running to him and found him unconscious. They called 911 and rushed him to the local hospital. No one was aware of it at the time, but Jackson had just suffered a brain contusion.

What is a Brain Contusion?

A brain contusion is a type of traumatic brain injury that causes localized bruising of the brain. Most brain contusions occur alongside a severe head injury. A brain contusion can also be called a cerebral contusion. Anytime the brain is hit or injured, the small blood vessels can leak and a localized area of brain tissue can bruise. Much like when a person falls on his or her leg and it bruises, a strong enough hit can cause the brain to bruise. When Jackson fell, the weight of his body caused his head to hit the ground with strong force. The fall caused a part of his brain to bruise and swell, creating a brain contusion. Brain contusions can occur with or without bleeding in other areas of the brain and can range from mild to severe. Brain contusions need to be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Types of Brain Contusion Injuries

Two types of brain contusion injuries are fairly common: coup brain injuries and contre-coup brain injuries. A coup brain injury occurs when the brain is injured on the area where the hit occurred. For example, if the front of a person's head was hit with a baseball bat and the front of the person's brain was bruised, that person would be said to have a coup brain injury. A contre-coup injury occurs when the area of the brain opposite the impact site gets injured. For example, if a person was riding a bike and the front of his or her head hit a telephone pole and the back of the person's brain was injured (the area opposite the impact site), this would be called a contre-coup injury.

Causes of Brain Contusions

Brain contusions can occur after any blunt force hits, or injures, a person's head. The most common cause of brain contusions are car accidents. Other causes of brain contusions include falls (such as when an elderly person slips and falls in the bathroom) and sport injuries. Playing contact sports places players at a greater risk of head injury; therefore, it is important that the proper head protection be worn during all physical activity. If Jackson and his friends had been wearing their helmets while they were playing football in the backyard, Jackson's risk of incurring a brain contusion during his fall would have been a lot smaller.

Car Crash
Car Crash

Brain Contusion Symptoms

Brain contusion symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on how hard the head was hit and how severe the brain injury. Anytime a person is suspected of having any sort of brain injury, it is very important that he or she be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. Mild symptoms of a brain contusion can include a brief loss of consciousness, dizziness, feeling confused, headache, tiredness, and nausea and/or vomiting.

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