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Traumatic Brain Injury - Children A Growing Concern

Robert Karns

Emergency room visits for children with brain injuries have doubled in the last 10 years. Studies show that an average of nearly 600,000 children are treated for brain injuries in the emergency room and well over 60,000 children with brain injuries are hospitalized. Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of disability and death in children and adolescents nationwide. The age groups most at risk for brain injury are newborns through age 4 and teens from 15 to 19.

Part of the reason for the increase in emergency room visits for children with brain injuries is from a greater awareness of the dangers of traumatic brain injuries. Studies show that children with brain injuries are more likely to be diagnosed with mood disorders and have a much higher than average rate of depression.

Recent studies show that young people who have suffered from concussions and other traumatic brain injuries are significantly more likely to attempt suicide, to be bullied and to engage in other risky types of behavior including victimizing others. Studies show that traumatic brain injury among teens needs to be taken seriously as damage to the brain will cause dysfunction of health outcomes and behavioral outcomes. Brain damage does affect how we think, how we feel and how we act.

A recent study from the Indiana University School of Medicine published in the journal Neurology indicated that after observing concussion free athletes in contact sports (football and ice hockey) and non contact sports (track, crew and skiing) those playing contact sports were nearly twice as likely as others to fall into a subgroup of low performing athletes. Even though all of the athletes observed were concussion free those playing contact sports were nearly twice as likely to fall into the subgroup of low performing athletes.

Infants and young children with brain injuries may lack the communication skills to report headaches, sensory problems, confusion and similar symptoms. That is why parents must carefully observe the child to watch their behavior. A child with traumatic brain injury the following may be observed:

  • Change in eating or nursing habits
  • Persistent crying and inability to be consoled
  • Unusual or easy irritability
  • Change in ability to pay attention
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Sad or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities

Any child or young person receiving a blow to the head or body that causes symptoms including behavioral changes should immediately have emergency medical care. A mild injury to the brain is still a serious injury that requires prompt attention and an accurate diagnosis.

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