Kids and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
November 21, 2017
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that traumatic brain injuries – commonly known as TBIs – are a leading cause of death and disability across the United States. The CSC estimates that as many as one-third of all injury-related fatalities are the result of TBIs. The news for kids is particularly frightening. Between 2002 and 2012, the rate of emergency department visits for TBI-related injuries or visits resulting in traumatic brain injury diagnoses in children under 19 grew by more than 200%.
Traumatic brain injuries happen when the brain’s normal functioning gets stopped or disrupted by a physical injury such as a blow, jolt or bump to the head. TBIs often result in concussions where people lose consciousness, experience brief changes in mental status or suffer memory loss, depending on the severity of their brain injury. In 2012, the CDC counted roughly 330,000 children and young adults age 19 or younger that required emergency medical treatment for recreation or sports-related injuries resulting in traumatic brain injuries.
Depending on how traumatic the injury event was, a person can experience after-effects for days or weeks – sometimes even permanently. Some common complications from a TBI can include:
- Altered consciousness
- Seizures (typically happen within one week of the injury);
- Fluid buildup;
- Nerve and blood vessel damage;
- Communication and intellectual problems;
- Emotional and behavioral changes (verbal or physical outbursts, mood swings and anger);
- Degenerative brain diseases; and
- Sensory problems (vision, hearing, sensation).
In extreme cases, traumatic brain injuries can cause coma and brain death. To read more about what can happen after a TBI from the Mayo Clinic, please visit here.
For children between the ages of 0 and 4, falls account for the majority of nonfatal traumatic brain injuries. Adolescents and young adults between 15 and 24 years old are most susceptible to nonfatal TBIs after being struck by or against objects, and for kids and teens, fatal traumatic brain injuries are most likely to be linked to a motor vehicle accidents or physical assault. Other common causes of TBIs in children and teens are sports-related trauma and child abuse.
Recognizing the signs of a head or brain injury is critical in ensuring that individuals receive the care they need as quickly as possible. Expedient diagnosis and treatment can increase a person’s likelihood of an overall better medical outcome. Sometimes, children and teens take a longer time to recover from traumatic brain injuries than adults do, so being patient, following a doctor’s advice and taking things slowly is advisable.
The CDC wants Americans to know that there are four kinds of TBI symptoms to watch out for. While some symptoms affect a person’s emotions or mood, others alter or impair sleep patterns, cognitive (thinking/remembering) abilities or inflict a variety of physical symptoms. Some people with concussions will feel lethargic or “slow”, have a hard time concentrating on, remembering or processing new information and struggle to think clearly. Typical physical symptoms include lethargy, sensitivity to light and noise, dizziness, early-onset nausea and vomiting, fuzzy or blurred vision, headache and balance problems. Other symptoms often include:
- Sadness, irritability;
- Nervousness or anxiety;
- Sleeping less or more than usual, and:
- Having a hard time falling asleep
When it comes to kids, seeking emergency medical care after a head injury occurs needs to be a priority, especially if the child will not nurse or eat, cries inconsolably or is exhibiting general restlessness. The CDC urges parents and caregivers to call 9-1-1 or take the child to the ER if he or she:
- Loses consciousness;
- Appears drowsy or is not waking up;
- Doesn’t recognize known people or places;
- Has seizures;
- Exhibits odd behavior;
- Becomes increasingly agitated or confused, and:
- Has one pupil larger than the other
If your child is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, go to an emergency room right away. It is also important to watch out for slurred speech, any weakness, numbness or decreased coordination, as well as headaches that get worse and don’t go away. If any of these signs are present, call a doctor or go to an emergency room. Because younger children can’t describe their symptoms in the same way as older ones can – and can bump their heads in the flash of an eye – it’s best to be vigilant when looking out for warning signs and red flags.
While there is no easy way to 100% avoid TBIs, taking precautionary measures certainly help limit the chances of sustaining life-changing – and sometimes life-ending – brain injuries. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) recommends the following safeguards for adults and children alike:
- When biking, always wear a helmet and make sure it fits properly;
- Always wear a seat belt in the car or any other type of motor vehicle;
- Follow AAP guidelines on car and booster seats for children;
- Ensure that playground surfaces are well-maintained, shock-absorbing (sand or hardwood mulch) and are an appropriate depth;
- Whenever protective equipment is available, use it! And:
- Maintain safe living areas for kids (install safety gates, window guards, clear stairs of clutter, etc.)
Allentown Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
If your child sustained a traumatic brain injury because of unguarded or poorly maintained playground equipment, on an unsafe property or because of any other type of defective product or hazardous premise, please contact our personal injury lawyers in Allentown. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, Galfand Berger serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.