Traumatic brain injury (TBI) in American Children and Teens today results from different causes than we might expect. Those causes are not the same as they were in the past.
When many of us were children, we played in public parks and playgrounds. Monkey bars, parallel bars, and other permanent playground fixtures were a primary cause of head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injury. Today, only a small percentage of TBIs in children and teens can be attributed to climbing trees and other objects or playing in a park or playground. Children seem to spend far less time playing outdoors.
TBI in Children and Teens: The Numbers
A recent study identified 4,091,376 non-fatal children’s TBIs treated in emergency rooms between 2010 and 2013. The age breakdown was:
- 380,842 in infants under one year
- 1,085680 in children aged 1 to 4
- 682,826 in children aged 5 to 9
- 834,565 in children aged 10 to 14
- 1,107,463 in teens aged 15 to 19.
The vast majority of these children (92%) were treated in the emergency room and released.
A breakdown of the causes of TBI is:
- 28% were related to sports and recreation
- 2% were related to home furnishings
- 1% were related to home structures and construction materials
- 4% were linked to toys
- 6% were linked to personal use items, home electronics and hobbies and other product groups.
In infants and children under aged 1 to 4, most TBIs were linked to home furnishings and fixtures, home structures and construction materials. Children aged 5 to 9 sustained TBIs in connection with sports and recreation (31.8%); for ages 10 – 14, 53.9%; and in teens aged 15 to 19, 38.3%.
The largest number of TBIs in 10-year-olds to 19-year-olds was in connection with American football. The second-largest number was connected with basketball.
Preventing TBI in Children and Teens
Few parents believe they can protect their children from all harm by wrapping them in bubble wrap. Most parents do not want to deny their children the opportunity to participate in sports activities. Yet there are things parents can do to protect their children from injury in many situations.
In the home, most do a good job of “child-proofing” cabinets and keeping things out of the reach of children. Other types of “child-proofing” are equally important. These include installing gates and handrails in stairways; eliminating such tripping hazards as rugs and slippery surfaces; attend to lighting in key locations; secure swimming pools and trampolines.
Outdoors, allow your children to play only where playgrounds have softer surfaces. It is wise to require them to wear safety gear, including a helmet, at skate parks, trampoline parks, skateboard parks, and the like.
Football and basketball, as well as most other sports, can be dangerous. Parents should be certain that children have properly-fitting protective gear, and that they wear it. This gear will likely include a properly-fitting helmet and a good well-fitting mouthguard. Equally important for parents is to instill a positive and healthy attitude toward winning in any sport. Do you want your child to play to win any way at any cost? Do you want them to play competitively but with consideration of fairness and safety? You will also want to ensure that the coach of any team shares your philosophy about winning. When you register your child for a sports team, you might want to ensure that the players will be taught to play safely and prevent injuries. You might want to take a stand on drug-enhanced athletic performance, as well. Finally, you will probably want to ensure that adequate medical assistance will be on hand.
When children are raised in safe environments and are taught to play games and sports for fun, they are far less likely to sustain a serious injury. Accidents will happen, and sometimes children will be injured. Yet many potential injuries can be prevented with foresight, the right attitude, and appropriate safety equipment.
Call Altizer Law, P.C.
If your child or teen is injured due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, and through no fault of his or her own, you may be entitled to financial compensation for any hurts and harms sustained. In this type of matter, you want an attorney who understands competitive sports and the risks and responsibilities of others when practicing or competing. Bettina Altizer is a five-time world champion in her sport. She is also a fierce advocate for the rights and safety of children and teens.