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I banged my head at work – should I seek medical advice?

Banging your head at work might seem like a minor incident and not one that is worth reporting. Head injuries can be minor or they can be serious, more worryingly, what might seem like a minor injury may turn out to be more serious than you first thought. Head injuries can give rise to complications such as blood clots, fractured skulls, brain damage, or bleeding around the brain. Even if an individual decides not to seek medical treatment at the time of the injury, they should monitor their condition and seek medical advice if their condition worsens or symptoms persist.

Around one million individuals each year seek medical treatment for an injury to the head, from either a blow or a knock. Roughly 90 per cent of these cases will be treated in A&E and are for minor head injuries. Head injuries are commonly caused by falls, assaults or being hit by a moving vehicle or object. Serious head injuries at work commonly result from falls.

Minor head injuries may cause a bruise or lump. If the individual does not lose consciousness, however, the likelihood of brain damage is low. Individuals who have a minor head injury may experience nausea, mild headaches, mild dizziness and swelling of the scalp, or tenderness and bruising. People who experience symptoms that are no more serious than these do not need to seek medical assistance.

More serious symptoms of head injuries are unconsciousness (even if it is only for a brief period), seizures or fits; problems with vision, including double vision; reading or writing problems; difficulty in speaking, for example, slurred speech; difficulty staying awake or feeling sleepy even hours after the injury occurred; problems with balance or difficulty walking; loss of memory; bleeding from both or one ear; deafness; a black eye when there is no other damage to the eye; clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears; vomiting; unusual behaviour; and noticeable damage, such as open, bleeding wounds.

Epidural haematomas occur when a meningeal artery is damaged and blood pools in the epidural space. If left untreated the condition can have serious implications and even result in death. Around 50 per cent of individuals who suffer from epidural haematomas lose consciousness, but appear to be fine when they recover consciousness.

The potential severity of an injury caused by a blow to the head depends on which part of the head suffers the injury. Although the brain is protected by the skull, it does have points where the skull is weaker, for example, the temple area. In addition to the skull being thinner in this area, this is also where a main artery, the middle meningeal artery, runs. If this artery is damaged it can cause severe bleeding on the brain.

If anyone experiences any of the more serious symptoms they should immediately seek medical help and, if possible, go to the nearest A&E department. The individual should not go to the hospital on their own, but should be accompanied by someone who can explain what has happened.  It may be necessary to call an ambulance.

If you are unfortunate and suffer lasting damage from a head injury that was received at work, Accident Advice Helpline can offer advice and help on dealing with the consequences of your accident.