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What is traumatic brain injury and when should Rega be called out?

Head injuries can be deceptive: find out how you can protect yourself, what to look out for in an emergency and how to react correctly.

A bump on the head and a headache after a collision during a sporting activity – most likely everyone has experienced this at one time or other. However, probably very few people consult a doctor as a result. So when should a person who has suffered a head injury go to the doctor or call out the piste rescue service or Rega? What is traumatic brain injury, and why is it so dangerous, indeed even deceptive? And last but not least: how can I prevent this injury?

Risk of traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury – that is, an injury to the head that also disrupts normal brain function – is mostly caused by falls or by traffic, sports or occupational accidents. According to figures published by the Swiss national accident insurance company, Suva, approximately 1,900 people suffer severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year. Around 1,250 patients with brain injuries receive emergency medical care by Rega crews and are subsequently flown to hospital.

Wide range of symptoms

Depending on the extent and location of the damage, traumatic brain injury can be accompanied by a variety of symptoms, which often manifest themselves some time after the incident. Typical symptoms are severe headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and disorientation. In addition, there may be vomiting, memory problems, or vision, movement or speech disorders. Even short-term (lasting anything from a few seconds to minutes) or long-lasting unconsciousness is possible.

When should I raise the alarm?

Raising the alarm and first aid

First measures:

  • Immediately alert the ambulance call centre on 144 or Rega on 1414
  • Make sure the person is in a stable position (to avoid danger of falling)
  • Reassure the person


  • Do not give anything to eat or drink
  • No intake of blood-thinning medication

Unconscious with normal breathing: Place in a stable position on their side

Unconscious without breathing: Immediately start CPR

The right protection

In order to prevent this from happening in the first place, it is important to take sensible precautions and minimise the risk of injury by using adequate protective equipment. In the case of occupational activities or sports with an increased risk of injury, it is advisable to protect yourself with a suitable safety helmet. However, a helmet only provides optimal protection if it complies with the necessary standards, is undamaged and is worn correctly. You can find useful information on this subject, among other things, in the relevant brochures from the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (BFU) listed below.

Further information:

Additional information