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For Every Blow to the Head, Quick Action Is Urged
Date:6/14/2009

ir, an emergency department physician, clinical professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians, credits media coverage of Richardson's accident and death with making people more aware of potential brain injuries.

However, Vukmir said, it's still too early to tell if that awareness has translated into more people coming to emergency departments worried about head injuries.

O'Shanick said his organization received many phone calls and Web site hits in the days after Richardson's injury. "They wanted to find out a lot about the basics of head injury, prevention issues, how much of a hit does it take to create that kind of injury," he said.

People seem to have a good understanding of the basics of head injuries, Vukmir said: "Most people who pass out know to come in. Most people who vomit know to come in."

But the real problem, illustrated by the cases of both Richardson and the Ohio girl, is that potentially fatal brain injuries don't always produce severe or noticeable symptoms.

Nonetheless, certain steps should be taken to ensure that someone who's taken a blow to the head will be all right. They include:

  • Stay with the person. "If there's a question of what's going on, don't let the person be by themselves," O'Shanick said. "Make sure there's a person in attendance, watching over them. If you see someone once and they go off to their hotel room, unless there's someone there watching, no one's going to know about any changes in behavior. You really do need to make sure there's someone watching."
  • Watch for behavior changes. If the person becomes suddenly drowsy, irritable or confused, acts in a drunken manner, begins repeating statements or has trouble walking or speaking, get the person to an emergency room immediately for treatment, O'Shanick said.
  • Be particularly cautious with hig
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