Children’s Brain Injuries
Brain injury is the most frequent cause of disability and death among children in the United States. More than one million children sustain brain injuries every year and approximately 165,000 require hospitalization. However, many students with mild brain injury may never see a health care professional at the time of the accident.
Head injury is a broad term that refers to the vast array of injuries to the scalp, skull, brain and the underlying tissue and blood vessels in a child’s head. This could be as mild as a bump or bruise or severe as a concussion or fractured skull. Depending on the extent of the trauma, the head injury may be referred to as a brain injury or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The Brain Injury Association (formerly the National Head Injury Foundation) calls TBI “the silent epidemic,” because many children have no visible impairments after a head injury. Symptoms can vary greatly depending upon the extent and location of the brain injury. However, impairments in one or more areas (such as cognitive functioning, physical abilities, communication, or social/behavioral disruption) are common. These impairments may be either temporary or permanent in nature and may cause partial or total functional disability as well as psychosocial maladjustment.
Traumatic brain injury means an acquired injury to the brain caused by external physical force. TBI’s are defined as mild to moderate and moderate to severe.
Mild to Moderate TBI
A mild to moderate TBI is also called a concussion, and healthcare providers often use the terms interchangeably. A person can experience a mild to moderate TBI without losing consciousness. A mild to moderate brain injury can cause short and long term problems with cognition, communication, motor skills and behavior that may persist. Common symptoms of a mild to moderate TBI include headache, dizziness, sensitivity to noise or light, nausea, fatigue, change in sleeping patterns, emotional changes, difficulties with memory, concentration or attention, slower reaction/processing speed, and changes in school performance. Children who experience a mild to moderate TBI should undergo complete medical evaluation and treatment.
Moderate to Severe TBI
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries occur when sudden impact results in a serious structural injury to the brain. More serious than a concussion, a moderate to severe TBI can affect movement, sensory processing, cognition, communication and behavior. Symptoms might include a worsening or prolonged headache, seizures, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, loss of coordination, slurred speech, greater difficulty awakening from sleep, or increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation. People with the most severe form of TBI may remain unconscious for days, weeks or months. Children and teens who experience moderate to severe TBI usually require rehabilitation to relearn skills lost due to their injury. Rehabilitation includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, psychology, therapeutic recreation and academic services.
Facts about brain injuries in children
Head injury is common in adolescents and children
They occur twice as frequently in males than females
Studies show head injuries are more common in spring and summer months when children are most active outdoors riding bikes, skateboarding and other activities
Head injuries are most common in the late afternoon to early evening and on weekends
Promoting a safe environment for children
The key is to promote a safe playing environment for children and to prevent head injuries from occurring. Using seat belts when riding in the car and helmets for bicycle riding, in-line skating, skateboarding and other potentially impact activities may protect the head from sustaining severe injuries.
Once a child has experienced a brain injury the extent of recovery depends upon the type of brain injury and other medical problems that may be present. It is important to focus on maximizing your child’s capabilities at home and in the community. Positive reinforcement will encourage your child to strengthen his/her self-esteem and promote independence.
Brain Injury Information
- Anatomy of the Brain
- Brain Injury Glossary
- Brain Injury Prevention
- Brain Injury Statistics
- Children’s Brain Injuries
- Common Causes of TBI
- Concussion Checklist
- Effects of Brain Injury
- Emotional Changes Associated with Brain Injury
- Financial Costs of Brain Injuries
- Football Brain Injuries
- Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Symptoms of Brain Injury
- TBI Frequently Asked Questions
- Treatment for TBI
- What is Traumatic Brain Injury?
- What To Do After a Concussion