What is a Contrecoup?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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A contrecoup is a type of injury. It occurs when one part of an organ or part of the body suffers an impact or blow so hard that the other side of the organ or body is injured. In such a case, the area directly opposite the part that takes the blow sustains an injury as well.

Often contrecoup injuries are discussed in terms of the brain. Contrecoup brain injuries may occur when a person receives a blow to his head, and the brain bounces off the surface that received the blow, hitting the other side of the skull. In such a case, the force of the blow is hard enough to injure the side that wasn’t hit. Injury may result even if the skin above the injured areas remains undamaged.

Coup injuries also can injure the brain. A coup injury occurs, for instance, when a person’s head stops suddenly as the result of impact, but the brain doesn’t stop along with the head. Instead, it moves forward and hits the skull. A person may sustain a contrecoup injury by itself or along with a coup injury.


A contrecoup injury may occur as a result of a car accident, fall, or violent attack. This type of injury may also occur as a result of impact during sporting activities. Shaken baby syndrome also results in contrecoup injuries. This syndrome occurs after a type of child abuse in which the abuser shakes a small child violently. As a result, the brain moves forward to strike the front of the skull and backward to strike the opposite side.

Contrecoup brain injuries typically cause cerebral contusions, which are essentially bruises on the brain. This bruising can cause a person to lose consciousnesses and experience nausea and vomiting. Some people with brain contusions may experience mental confusion and problems with walking or talking normally. Changes in speech and vision may also occur along with brain contusions. Brain damage, bleeding in the brain, and other injuries may occur as well.

Recovery following a contrecoup injury depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the impact and the extent of the injuries sustained as a result of it. Some people recover fully while others may suffer paralysis or even die. Often, people with this type of traumatic brain injury are unconscious for a period of time. The length of time they remain unconscious, in combination with recovery progress during the first month following injury, may help doctors to predict how much a person may ultimately recover.


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