Traumatic Brain Injuries in Children
Parents love their children and want to give them the world. They want to give them all those things they never had while growing up. And most importantly, they want to keep them safe – both in school and at home.
No matter how hard you try to keep your children safe, they’re going to get hurt because you can’t be with them all the time. The point is, children get involved in accidents. It could be as fatal as a car crash or as minimal as falling off a skateboard, but knowing what to look out for in such circumstances is critical to your child health.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), also known as head injuries, are a very common outcome in children and teen related accidents, according to research by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),. They are the leading cause of permanent brain damage and death in children and teenagers.
A TBI occurs as a result of a collision between the head and a hard, strong surface. This collision causes the brain to jolt and slush around in the skull, usually resulting in anything from mild concussions to severe brain damage. Below are five things every parent must know about traumatic brain injuries in children.
What you Need to Know
- Not Every Head Injury Leads to a Concussion
Most parents often overlook minor head injuries, usually to the detriment of their children. This is common for parents whose children are engaged in extracurricular sporting activities. Don’t make that mistake. Not every head injury leads to a concussion; sometimes it could be much worse – especially in children.
There are various types of head injuries to look out for in an accident, depending on the age of the child and the impact of the collision. They are generally classified into three main categories: severe, moderate and mild.
Some of the most common TBIs associated with children are:
- Concussion: One of the most common forms of head injuries, concussions are graded based on how severe the symptoms are. They are graded from I – III, where grade I, is the mildest with an injury that only leads to confusion of up to about 15 minutes. Any feelings of concussions lasting for more than 16 minutes are automatically graded as grade II concussions while grade III concussions will result in loss of consciousness and confusion can last up 24 hours.
- Contusion: Much more severe than concussions, a contusion occurs when the impact on the head is so strong that it bruises the brain, causing bleeding and swelling. The most obvious symptoms are seizures, headaches, vomiting and loss of consciousness.
- Skull Fracture: This is the most severe type of traumatic brain injury your children could ever experience and could require surgery to treat. There are four distinct types of skull fractures: Linear, Depressed, Diastatic and Basilar.
- Certain Age Ranges Are More Vulnerable Than Others
While children of all ages are at risk of TBIs, according to the CDC, two major groups stand out. Children between the ages of 0 – 4 and 15 – 19 stand higher chances of sustaining TBIs than any other age range.
This can be attributed to the fact that toddlers between 0 – 4 are just learning to walk, climb and run and as a result, they’re more likely to sustain head injuries. Teenagers between ages 15 – 19 are also at a very high risk of TBIs resulting from sporting and automobile accidents.
According to the CDC report:
- 62,000 children, aged 0 to 19, suffered moderate to severe brain injuries requiring hospitalization as a result of automobile accidents, sports-related injuries and physical abuse.
- TBI results in an estimated 2,685 deaths, 37,000 hospitalizations, and 435,000 emergency room visits for children aged 0 to 14 years.
- Falls are the leading cause of TBIs in children aged 0 to 4 years while automobile accidents are the leading causes of TBIs in teenagers aged 15 to 19.
- The Symptoms Are Not Always Obvious
Not all TBI symptoms are immediately obvious. As noted earlier, brain injuries range from mild to severe, and as a result, it takes several days, sometimes weeks, before it is detected. This becomes even more difficult for children ages 0 to 4 who might have a harder time communicating their discomfort or pain.
Some parents erroneously believe that all TBIs result in loss of consciousness (LOC), this is far from the truth. And while some children react differently when they have a brain injury, there are certain symptoms to look out for in general to help you determine whether your child is safe or not.
According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms include:
- Physical: headaches, dizziness, swollen head (around the area of impact), vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
- Cognitive: Inability to balance, reaction times are slower than normal, extreme confusion and disorientation, a problem with memory and retaining information.
- Emotional: Feeling of depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings and personality changes. Sleeplessness and restlessness are also reported by some children.
- Always Diagnose Any Form of Head Injury
Whenever your children suffer any form of head injury, no matter how insignificant it seems, it is highly recommended to take them in for a complete medical evaluation and diagnostic testing. This is essential if you want to quickly detect (if) any serious damage has been done or not.
The most popular and widely used diagnostic tests for TBI include:
- X-ray: X-rays uses electromagnetic radiation to produce images of the bones, muscles, and tissues on a film for doctors to see the extent (if any) of the brain damage. One of the disadvantages of an X-ray is that it can only show hard tissue damage and TBIs aren’t so obvious.
- CT scan: This is the most popular and widely used diagnostic tool in the United States and other parts of the world. A computerized tomography (CT) scan uses a series of x-ray images, taken from various angles, to produce detailed images of your body, including your bones, muscles, and organs. CT scans provide more detail to doctors than X-rays which makes them a more popular choice.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: MRI scans are much more superior to both X-rays and CT scans. They make use of strong magnetic fields, radio waves, and field gradients to generate images of the brain in order to detect the area and scope of damage.
- Treatment and Recovery from TBI
Treating TBIs has become easier in the past few decades with the advances in technology and neurological science. Before treatment, your child’s doctor will take the following into consideration:
- Your child’s age and medical history.
- The type of head injury and the extent of the damage caused.
- Your child’s tolerance levels for certain medications and procedures.
Treatment options for TBI, depending on severity, include:
- Surgery: This is only required in extreme and severe cases where the brain has suffered fractures or bruises and bleeding occurs.
- Rest and observation: This is usually recommended in mild cases where a minor concussion was suffered and no serious damage has been caused.
- Ice and painkillers: Also useful in mild cases where only a minor swelling occurs. The ice helps to reduce the swelling while the painkillers reduce the pain.
Helping your child during recovery is extremely important. Depending on the type of TBI and how severe it is, recovery can be anything from a few days to a few years. Loss of muscles, incoherent speech and lack of concentration and focus are common recovery problems some children face. They expect you, as a parent, to always be there for them – physically and emotionally.
You can also view our TBI Resource Guide for advice on dealing with the pain of living with a brain injury.
Contact an Experienced Indianapolis Brain Injury Lawyer
Traumatic brain injuries are financially and emotionally draining. If your child’s injury is as a result of the carelessness and negligence of someone else, current and future medical expenses could be among the damages sought in a personal injury claim. Contact us today for a free consultation on how we can help you and your family.