Guidelines for the management of severe head injury in adults as evolved by the European Brain Injury Consortium are presented and discussed. The importance of preventing and treating secondary insults is emphasized and the principles on which treatment is based are reviewed. Guidelines presented are of a pragmatic nature, based on consensus and expert opinion, covering the treatment from accident site to intensive care unit. Specific aspects pertaining to the conduct of clinical trials in head injury are highlighted. The adopted approach is further discussed in relation to other approaches to the development of guidelines, such as evidence based analysis.