If you are on the scene of a car accident, a sports game, or any other scenario where a head injury may have happened, it is really handy and potentially life-saving to know what to do in advance.
1. Wave Off the Crowd
If you are there before first responders, appoint 2-3 people from the crowd to form a rough circle around the patient, keeping anyone from moving them. At a car accident, particularly, you may be faced with a belligerent other party who is trying to claim no fault for the accident. Try to avoid legal entanglements by physically harming the person, but do not allow them to touch or harass the injured party.
2. Ensure that First Responders Have Been Contacted and DO NOT MOVE the patient
In the heat of the moment, 5-10 people may have called on their cell phones. Or nobody has because everyone assumes that someone else has called. Deputize one of your helpers to contact emergency while you test for a head injury. Do not, at any point, move the patient from the position that they are in unless they are in immediate danger if you do not move them; for example, if they are lying in the middle of a highway.
3. Test for Head Injury
Ask the subject easy questions, such as what year it is and who the president is. Try to get them to follow your finger with their eyes. If they have problems answering the questions or following your finger beyond the normal confusion one would have in such a situation, you are potentially dealing with a head injury.
If the subject answers questions lucidly and can follow your finger, watch for other signs such as abnormal behavior and loss of consciousness. Both may also point to head injury.
4. Take Action
If you know CPR and rescue breathing and there is airway obstruction, begin the procedure. If everything is normal but the person is unconscious, treat it as a potential spine injury and place your hands on both sides of the person’s head, keeping the head in line with the spine and preventing movement. Wait for medical help in this position.
5. Inform First Responders
As soon as the first responders arrive, tell them that the subject is having a hard time answering questions and following your finger, and you suspect a head injury. This will save them valuable time.
6. Back Off When First Responders Arrive
Remain at the scene as a witness as long as needed, but keep your distance while the first responders are working on the patient. You can do your part by trying to hold off a crowd of curious onlookers at this point.
If you are in a position where you may run into head injuries, such as coaching sports, truck driving, or any other profession that involves driving, see about getting first aid lessons so that you have all of the tools that you need in case you ever do need them.