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Skull Fracture - Types, Causes, and Treatment

Published on Oct 28, 2022 and last reviewed on Jan 17, 2023   -  4 min read


Skull fracture commonly occurs in sports. Read this article to learn about skull fractures and their treatment plan.


When it comes to the term skull fracture, people might think of something that only happens in a car accident or with serious falls. But the fact is a skull fracture can also occur during sports activities. Contact sports cause a lot of head injuries due to collisions with other players, falling, or injuries with sports equipment. These injuries are sometimes minor but can be very severe depending upon the type of injury. A skull fracture is mostly fatal. It is mandatory to wear proper protective gear during sports to avoid any kind of head injury. All the sports authorities apply helmets and protective wear rules during sports. In case of head injury, immediate treatment is necessary.

What Is a Skull Fracture?

A skull fracture is a break in the skull bone, also called a cranial fracture. It is a type of head injury. It can occur due to falls, accidents, and sports injuries. They can range in severity from a minor crack to a serious injury that penetrates the brain. Symptoms of a skull fracture include headache, nausea, dizziness, and difficulty speaking. A skull fracture can be minor or very severe and it can lead to permanent disability or death. Immediate treatment is necessary in case of a skull fracture.

What Are the Types of Skull Fractures?

Skull fractures are of three types which are listed below:

  • Linear Fractures - These are simple fractures and have very few complications. They mostly heal early.

  • Comminuted Fractures - In this type of fracture, bone gets broken into many pieces. There are chances of secondary infection in comminuted fracture.

  • Depressed Fractures - Fractured pieces get depressed inside the skull, and deformity can be seen.

Which Bones Are Fractured in a Skull Fracture?

Skull comprises frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital, ethmoid, and sphenoid bones. During skull fractures, any of these bones can get fractured.

What Are the Causes of a Skull Fracture in Sports?

Various actions on the playing field can cause skull fractures. Some common causes of skull fractures are listed below:

  • The most common cause of skull fractures in sports is a direct impact on the head. This can happen when a ball or another player hits a player or when they fall and hit their head on the ground.

  • A violent collision between two players can also cause skull fractures or a landing on the top of the head after a fall.

What Symptoms Can Be Seen in a Skull Fracture?

If someone has a skull fracture, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Delays in treatment can lead to serious complications, including brain damage and death. Symptoms of skull fracture are listed below.

  • Headache.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Dizziness.

  • Coma.

  • Bruises.

  • Depression in bony parts.

  • Black eyes (raccoon eyes).

  • Visual deformity.

  • Loss of senses.

  • Unconsciousness.

  • Hallucination.

  • Depending upon the injury, the person may experience seizures.

How to Diagnose Skull Fractures?

Proper diagnosis of skull fractures can help a lot in the treatment procedure. The doctor will start with a physical examination and may order imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, to determine the soft tissue injury. Plain skull X-rays are also helpful in diagnosing skull fractures.

What Are the Treatments Available for a Skull Fracture?

Skull fractures can be very dangerous and lead to serious injuries if not treated properly. Medical professionals will evaluate the injury and decide on the best course of treatment.

  • Linear fractures simply get healed over the course of time (six months to one year).

  • Comminuted fractures are more complex than linear fractures, and that is why they require more time to heal. Depending upon the severity of the fracture, a surgical procedure can be done.

  • Neurosurgeons remove any hematoma formation in the fractured areas.

What Complications Can Occur if a Skull Fracture is Left Untreated?

If a person is involved in sporting activity and suffers a head injury, the person must be aware of the potential complications. A skull fracture is a serious injury and can lead to many health complications if not treated properly. Some usual complications associated with skull fractures include -

  • Bleeding inside the skull.

  • Brain swelling.

  • Damage to the brain tissue.

  • Infection.

  • Loss of vision.

  • Paralysis.

  • Loss of sensation.

  • Loss of motor or sensory activity.

Which Sport Is More Likely to Cause Skull Fracture?

All outdoor games have some chance of injuries. A collision between two players is frequent in contact sports and results in injuries like a skull fracture or bone fracture. Some sports have more chances of skull fracture, such as:

  • Hockey.

  • Cricket.

  • Golf.

  • Football.

  • Baseball.

  • Cycling.

  • Gymnastic.

  • Boxing.

  • Martial arts.

How to Prevent Skull Fractures During Sports?

Wearing protective headgear during sports helps prevent skull fractures and head injuries. Sports like cricket, boxing, golf, and hockey have high chances of head injury and skull fracture. Sports authorities are very strict with wearing protective gear while performing, and a helmet is necessary for sports like cricket or cycling.

Dehydration is also a cause of falling on the field and can result in skull fractures. Every sports person should drink enough water to avoid dehydration during a sport.

What to Do If Any Athlete has a Skull Fracture?

If any sports person is injured, the following steps will help treat the injured person.

  • Call the emergency care unit and ambulance immediately.

  • Provide first aid: ABCD (airway, circulation, breathing, disability).

  • If the patient is unconscious, clear the airways.

  • Remove unnecessary mobs from the surroundings.

  • Try to collect the medical history of the injured person.

  • Inform the family of the injured person.

Conclusion -

Everyone who participates in contact sports is susceptible to a skull fracture, even if they do not think of it. Proper knowledge about the symptoms and knowing what to do at first if it happens to anyone is good. Seek medical attention immediately when experiencing any of the symptoms of a skull fracture. Avoid self-diagnosis or treatment. Proper diagnosis and immediate treatment are crucial in preventing further damage and reducing the risk of serious complications.


Frequently Asked Questions


Is Skull Fracture a Serious Condition?

A skull fracture can be a serious condition depending on the fracture's site, location, and extent. Mild skull fractures may heal with time, but severe fractures may cause unnecessary complications depending on the organs affected.


Can an Individual Survive a Fractured Skull?

Most individuals survive a fractured skull if hospitalized and treated appropriately. The fracture may be mild or severe, depending on the force and impact. However, fractures in the skull's base are prone to high complications. Therefore, it may be a fatal condition.


How to Fix a Skull Fracture?

A skull fracture can be fixed with the help of screws and mini plates. A titanium screw is usually used as it is more biocompatible. In case of mild fractures, stabilization of the bone is done with wires to hold the fractured segments in position and promote healing.


What Is the Duration of Recovery From a Skull Fracture?

The recovery duration may vary depending on the age and site of the fracture. Younger individuals heal faster than older adults. For a fracture to heal completely, it may take about six months.


Can Skull Fractures Be Painful?

Most skull fractures are painful. This is because the pain may be radiating to the surrounding structures. Some symptoms include headache and pain at the point of impact. Painkillers may help to relieve the pain temporarily.


Do Skull Fractures Cause Problems in Later Stages of Life?

Occasionally skull fractures may cause problems in the later stages of life. It may vary from physical to mental changes, whether short-term or long-term. Some changes include loss of motor skills, vision, and speech. Physiotherapy and rehabilitation can help to heal this condition.


What Is the Most Common Skull Fracture?

The most common skull fracture occurs in the parietal bone. The occipital and frontal bones follow it. When an individual falls, there is a higher chance that parietal bones may initially come in contact with the surface. The fracture may be mild or severe, depending on the force and impact.


What Are the Possible Side Effects of a Fractured Skull?

The possible side effects of a fractured skull are listed below:
- Headache.
- Seizure.
- Nausea.
- Vomiting.
- Lethargy.
- Loss of consciousness.


What Amount of Force Is Required to Fracture a Skull?

A force between 195 and 550 kg is required to produce a skull fracture. However, in roadside traffic accidents, the fracture occurs due to the speed and impact of the moving vehicle. However, the force may vary in children and adults.


Does Skull Bone Grow Back After Skull Fracture?

Usually, skull bones may need intervention by the doctor or a surgeon to help heal, as they are unlikely to heal independently. Very mild fractures can heal by themselves. However, severe fractures may require intervention by doctors. Surgery may sometimes be required to treat a fractured skull by placing titanium screws and plates.


Can a Skull Fracture Be Identified in a CT Scan?

Computed tomography (CT) scans are the best imaging technique to view various angles of a skull fracture. CT helps the doctor view any discontinued or linear fracture and helps with treatment planning. In addition, a CT scan provides thin slices of images that help to understand the origin of the skull fracture.

Last reviewed at:
17 Jan 2023  -  4 min read


Dr. Anuj Nigam

Dr. Anuj Nigam

Orthopedics And Traumatology


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