What Happens to Your Brain When you Hit Your Head?

Hitting your head hurts! And if it happens hard enough, you could experience a pounding headache, memory loss, or even a concussion. But what exactly is happening on the inside of your cranium when your head gets knocked around?


According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 170,000 children and adolescents will visit the emergency room with brain injuries resulting from sports and recreational activities. When a blow comes to your head, the white matter of your brain–responsible for messages being successfully sent through your brain for cognition, memory and thinking abilities–may be significantly affected.

When you hit your head hard enough, the resulting injuries can get as deep as the microscopic levels. Cells will die as their membranes are stretched and twisted, (usually) temporarily throwing off the chemical balance in your brain. In a reflexive response, the cells surrounding those that are immediately affected will also go into a “spreading depression”–basically, if this happens to enough cells, you can experience amnesia, confusion, or even loss of consciousness.

During your brain’s recovery, it will use a massive amount of blood sugar. This will usually cause further inhibition of your brain’s functions and, similar to overusing any muscle and as a result of the blow itself, a good-old-fashioned splitting headache.

These reasons are why, until your brain is recovered, you may feel that it’s not quite working as well as it was before the injury. Your brain is particularly vulnerable to being injured again until it has healed itself, and any blow to the head should be examined by your doctor to avoid any serious problems.

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