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?
Particular attention should be paid to infants and toddlers: if, after a head injury, the child behaves differently than normal, is confused, sleepy, does not want to drink or does not move their limbs, a TBI must be taken into consideration. If any of the symptoms described above occur, it is advisable to request professional medical help and, for example, to call out Rega. For in such cases, rapid action and gentle transport is required – and the Rega helicopter is often the rescue means of choice.
The first hours after an incident are often crucial for the further healing process, which can take months or even years depending on the severity of the injury. If you need Rega’s help, it is best to contact the Operations Centre direct via the Rega app or by calling the Rega emergency number 1414. In the box on the right entitled "Raising the alarm and first aid", we tell you what you can do until the rescue services arrive.
Raising the alarm and first aid
- 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.