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Outdoor First Aid

Head Cases: Wilderness Head Injuries

If you take a hit to the head in the wild, think twice before deciding to hike on.

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If you slip and hit your head on a rock or knock your noggin hard on a low branch, think long and hard about whether to resume hiking. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, a second, milder blow can result in a potentially fatal condition known as Second Impact Syndrome. It happens when someone suffers a concussion, the brain swells, then another bang on the head occurs before the brain has healed. Neither impact has to be strong enough to knock you out. In fact, the CDC cited two cases in which football players suffered blows that caused only headaches. Then second, minor blows caused unconsciousness, and eventually death.