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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Head injuries in adults

Most head injuries are minor and have no long-term effects. Some head injuries result in temporary effects known as concussion. These temporary effects can last anywhere from hours to weeks.

Symptoms of head injuries


Rarely, you can be well after a head injury but suddenly get worse some hours later due to bleeding inside your skull. Have someone with you for the first 24 hours so they can call for help if this happens.

Serious symptoms needing urgent medical attention include:

rugby player being tackled by opponent

Possible concussion symptoms include:

Treating head injuries

Rest is the most important part of recovery from a head injury. For the first 2 to 3 days, rest your brain. This should include avoiding screens, loud music and noisy environments as well as resting your body. Getting back to normal activities too soon can make your symptoms worse and delay your full recovery.

Simple pain relief like paracetamol can help with headaches.

Avoid alcohol and other drugs.

After 3 days, gradually return to your usual activities. If you are going to work or school, start with half days and build up to full days.

Avoid hard physical activity including contact sports for at least 3 weeks.

Before returning to sport, check if you have to follow a sport-specific stand down plan.

If you still have symptoms after 2 weeks, see your healthcare provider. You may need to see a specialist concussion service.

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On the next page: Concussion in adults

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2023.


See also:

Community groups for communication difficulties

Conserving energy

Head injury first aid

Speech and communication difficulties

Tips for managing memory loss

Page reference: 429821

Review key: HIBRI-52920