The incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children is staggering. It seems to be a daily (or hourly) occurrence for young children bump their heads. Most of these bumps are harmless. During summer, however, many children are outdoors more and navigating uneven and unfamiliar terrain. They discover countless opportunities to explore new places and things. Certainly, children learn from their explorations. Yet these explorations and new terrain can be dangerous.
I must admit that when I review the statistics I understand the parents who, if they could, would dress their children each morning in several layers of bubble wrap and a crash helmet.
Causes of Injury and Death
According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for 2015 (the latest data available), the leading causes of death for children from unintentional injuries and nonfatal injuries requiring a trip to the emergency room, for each age group, are:
Unintentional Injury Deaths Nonfatal Injuries Treated in ER
TBI in Children
A large number of these incidents and their outcomes involve Traumatic Brain Injury, among the top causes of death and disability for both children and adults. According to the U.S. Brain Injury Alliance, 4,657 brain injuries occur each day; 1,700,000 brain injuries occur each year; there are 5,300,000 people living with brain injury.
The Brain Injury Association of America reports (based on data from the CDC) that 564,000 children are seen in emergency rooms each year for brain injury. Up to 62,000 children sustaining brain injuries require hospitalization.
Children who sustain brain injuries stand apart from adults with TBI. This is due to the ongoing development of both bones in the skull and of the brain. Unfortunately, a number of people do not understand that any bump, sustaining a blow to the head or jolting of the head can cause TBI in children. In some cases damaging injuries are not perceived as such by adults. One group of childhood brain injuries is discussed far less than other causes: this is injury from physical child abuse.
Most of us are aware of the danger of brain injury in motor vehicle crashes, from contact sports, from bicycling and pedestrian accidents, and from falls from playground and other recreational equipment. These are among the most prevalent causes of serious injury. Yet it is important to remember that any head injury sustained by a child can result in TBI. Even a quick review of the list of leading causes of injuries to children should demonstrate the risk of TBI resulting from the full range of injury causes.
According to the CDC, TBI among children up to the age of 14 results in 2,685 deaths, 37,000 hospitalizations, and 435,000 emergency department visits each year. Each of these injuries can result in long-term cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and physical deficits.
One of the particular complications of head injury in children is that they (especially young children) cannot self-assess and they often cannot tell you how they feel or what symptoms of injury they are experiencing. For this reason, it is vital that parents know the symptoms of head injury and the importance of medical treatment.
It is impossible to protect children from all danger. Wrapping them in bubble wrap and making them wear a crash helmet seems like a good idea, but it just is not practical. Yet there are steps that can protect your child in reasonable ways.
There are a number of steps parents, teachers and others can take to protect children from serious injury:
- Never leave a child unattended on high porches, balconies, decks, and other places from which they could fall.
- With young children, use baby gates to prevent access to stairs.
- Never leave a young child unattended in a high chair or walking assistance device.
- Consider the benefits of changing a child on the floor instead of a changing table.
- Teach your children not to climb or jump on furniture
- Ensure that shelving units, televisions and large decorative items are firmly secured and cannot be overturned by a child.
- Use normal care to prevent slips and falls in showers and bath tubs and on small rugs.
- Do not allow a child to play in a playground that does not have shock absorbing ground cover material.
- Teach children the importance of wearing a helmet when bicycling, skateboarding, skating, or riding in an ATV.
- Teach children the importance of using appropriate protective gear when playing sports.
- Teach children how and where to cross streets safely.
- Require use of seat belts and appropriate child restraint seats.
- Provide a correctly fitting and safety approved helmet as appropriate.
- Do not leave a child unattended near a swimming pool.
- If you have a swimming pool, exercise reasonable caution to prevent access to the pool by unattended children.
- Never allow a child to play on a fire escape.
- Add window guards to prevent falls from a window.
- Find effective ways to keep children away from danger spots in the home and the yard.
- If you suspect that a child is being abused, report it to local authorities.
- Drivers should exercise extra care to observe children near streets and on bicycles or skateboards.
Children typically cannot recognize danger or avoid dangerous situations and objects. It is up to parents, property owners, and all adults to protect our children by creating safe places for them and by being attentive to their activities and behavior. Unfortunately we cannot prevent all injuries to children. By understanding traumatic brain injury (TBI) incidence and prevention in children we can work together to make the world a safer place for children.
If your child or grandchild has been injured or sustained TBI due to the negligence or illegal behavior of others, you may have a right to seek fair compensation for their hurts and harms. If you need the caring assistance from experienced and trusted attorneys, call Altizer Law, P.C. We are always here for you.