Pediatric Head Trauma

Head trauma is an injury to the head, skull or brain that could affect the way the brain or body functions.

At Children's Health℠, we have a Level I Trauma Center. This means we’re capable of providing complete care for any injury and we always have top pediatric doctors of every specialty available, including neurosurgeons and other medical specialists to treat children with head trauma. We also have a dedicated neurological team in our ICU that specifically cares for patients with head or spinal trauma. Children with head trauma often have other injuries as well, and our neuro-team works alongside other pediatric specialists to ensure every child receives the care they need.

What are the different types of Pediatric Head Traumas?

Head trauma can range from mild to severe, like a mild concussion or severe traumatic brain injury. Mild head trauma may only temporarily affect the brain while more severe cases can have long-lasting effects.

The types of head trauma include:


A concussion is an injury to the head that can cause instant loss of awareness or alertness for a few minutes or a few hours after the trauma.


A contusion is a bruise on the brain, which causes bleeding and swelling inside the brain. Contusions on the brain can range in size and severity, just like any bruise.

Skull fracture

A skull fracture is a break in the skull bone, and there are few different types:

  • Open skull fracture - When a child has a fracture in the skull bone and a cut on their scalp.
  • Closed skull fracture - When a child has a fracture in the skull bone, but there isn’t a cut on the scalp.
  • Depressed skull fracture - When part of the skull bone is driven into the brain.
  • Simple skull fracture - When the skull bone is in the correct place but there’s a crack in the bone.
  • Basilar skull fracture - When a child has a fracture at the base of the skull. This could result in cerebral spinal fluid leaking from the nose or ears.

What are the signs and symptoms of a Pediatric Head Trauma?

Mild head trauma

Signs and symptoms of mild head trauma may include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Changes in sleep
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty balancing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to noise and light
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Difficulty with memory or concentration

Moderate head trauma

Signs and symptoms of moderate to severe head trauma may include:

  • Blood or clear fluid draining from the ears or nose
  • Changes in behavior
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of short-term memory
  • Open wound in the head, such as a deep cut
  • Repeated nausea and vomiting
  • Severe, long-lasting headache
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness on one side of the body

If you suspect your child is experiencing moderate to severe head trauma symptoms, call 911 or seek emergency care at Children’s Health emergency department.

How is a Pediatric Head Trauma diagnosed?

Mild head trauma

Mild head trauma, like a mild concussion, is typically diagnosed after an evaluation from a medical specialist.

Moderate head trauma

For moderate to severe head trauma, doctors perform tests to see inside the child’s brain and get information about brain function. These tests might include

What causes a Pediatric Head Trauma?

Head trauma is prevalent among children and most often caused by falls, motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries and violence, like child abuse.

Although not all head trauma is preventable, you can reduce the risk of severe cases with a few best practices. Children should always wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorized vehicle. Seat belts and appropriate car seat use can also reduce the risk of head trauma in a car accident.

How is Pediatric Head Trauma treated?

Treatment varies based on the type and severity of head trauma.

Mild head trauma

Children with mild concussions can typically recover on their own with rest.

Moderate head trauma

With moderate head trauma, like a moderate contusion, doctors may monitor the pressure in the brain to determine if surgical treatment is necessary.

Severe head trauma

Severe head trauma cases usually require PICU care, surgical treatment and rehabilitation.

We treat all head trauma cases with the most advanced treatments, and our team of experts work together to ensure every child receives the care they need.

Pediatric Head Trauma doctors and providers

At Children’s Health, our team includes renowned pediatric neurosurgeons and medical specialists to ensure every child receives the care they need for head trauma.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will my child with head trauma be able to play sports?

    Doctors will make specific recommendations on returning to sports based on your child’s condition.

  • What’s the follow-up care for my child with severe head trauma?

    Recovering from severe head trauma may require follow-up care, like physical therapy (PT), physical medicine and rehabilitation services. We have these treatments available for children currently staying in the hospital and for children who need continued care after going home. For some severe head trauma cases, reconstructive surgery for the face or skull might also be a part of the treatment plan.

    Fortunately, children often make remarkable recoveries after head trauma. Some children make a complete recovery, and some children have persistent special needs. At Children’s Health, we have physicians and specialists available to provide your child and family with any care you may need after head trauma.