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A (so-called) mild head injury
  1. Charles Warlow
  1. Correspondence to Charles Warlow, 6 South Gray St, Edinburgh EH9 1TE, UK; charles.warlow{at}

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The accident

If mine were merely a mild head injury, which it was according to Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network guidelines,1 I dare not think what a moderate or severe head injury must feel like. In May 2010, I was on Richard Roberts’ new sailing boat, returning from our triumph in the Scottish Islands Peaks Race, which combines sailing 140 miles with three mountain marathons (fastest monohull, third overall, top of our class). We were about to enter the Crinan Canal, the short cut from the Clyde to the west coast. It was raining, slippery on deck and there were ropes lying about. Presumably I slipped or tripped, no one is sure, but I definitely fell head first into the cockpit, hitting the left side of my head and ear, and shoulder. I was completely unconscious for about a minute, much to Richard's consternation, who thought I was dead. I came round with a sore head, a bleeding cut behind my ear and pretraumatic amnesia of seconds, comfortably above the ceiling of 15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). I was really not too bad, able to go down into the cabin, and with help get my waterproofs and boots off, and lie down on a bunk. Within an hour I was reading the newspaper and regretting whatever stupidity had caused the fall. My left ear was a mess, bruised and bleeding from the cut inflicted by my glasses.

After motoring along the Crinan Canal for a couple of hours, we had another think. We did not need a neurologist, we had two already—me and Richard. In any event, UK neurologists know little if anything about head injury and even less about ear injury (alas, the recent “The Bare Essentials of Head Injury” in Practical Neurology was not in the ship's library). …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.