TBI in Children
What is a TBI?
TBI stands for traumatic brain injury, and occurs when one experiences damage to the brain. This type of damage is specific, and creates a disruption in the functioning of the brain. Not all injuries to the head are TBIs, but all TBIs are severe injuries. A TBI can happen when:
- An object penetrates the skull
- A person’s head is hit by an object
- Someone falls and their head makes contact with the ground
- Someone’s head shakes vigorously
A TBI can be “mild”, and result in short term mental consequences, or be “severe”, and include amnesia or severe unconsciousness after the injury.
TBI Rates & Statistics in Children
Children commonly experience TBI after a motor vehicle accident. Over 40% of children are hospitalized due to these accidents, including passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists. However, the leading cause of hospitalizations for children ages birth to 14 years old is falls. Falls can include falling from one level to another, falling down stairs, and falling from beds. The act of a fall can induce a TBI due to the pressure on one’s head and a blow, bump or jolt to the brain. The second leading reason for hospitalizations for females aged 15 to 19 years old are fall, and the third reason for males. Across various age groups and genders, falls are recurring leads to injury, and often TBI. Finally, sports injuries are also a prevalent form of TBI. Between the years of 2005-2007, 20% of children who were hospitalized for sports related reasons suffered from a TBI.
Signs and Symptoms of TBI
Varying signs and symptoms of TBI can be easily spotted or subtle depending on how severe and prevalent the TBI appears to be. Some symptoms and signs include:
- Strong headaches that do not go away
- Issues concentrating, remembering things and/or making decisions
- Feeling lost or confused easily
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Mood changes (feeling sad or mad for no apparent reason)
- Lightheadedness, dizziness or loss of balance
- Slowness in thinking, acting, reading or speaking
While these can appear in both children and adults, many children have a difficult time conveying how they are feeling. If a child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is best to seek out a medical professional:
- Changes in eating
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Changes in academic performance
- Changes in the way the child plays with others
- Loss of balance and difficulty walking
- Loss of interest in activities that normally interest them
Long-Term Consequences of TBI
TBI can cause many long term consequences for children. These functional changes can impact all areas of the brain, such as thinking, sensation and languages. Additionally, a TBI can result in the development of other disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and more. Repeated TBI taking place over months or years can lead to stronger mental and physical changes and damage. Repetitive TBIs can prove to be fatal.
Reducing TBI in Children
While TBI are very scary, they are preventable by taking the proper steps. Making sure your child learns, understands and puts safety rules into play is key to protecting them from head injuries. The following activities and events are things that children should be educated on safety for:
- Riding a motorcycle
- Driving in a car
- Home environment (in case of falls)
- Biking or cycling
- Crossing the street
TBI affects children all over the world. Keeping children safe and protected from TBI is integral to their safety and ability to live safely. By educating them on the dangers of TBI and how they can implement safety in everyday activities, they will be able to stay safe from life threatening injuries.
Department of Health. Traumatic Brain Injury Prevention, Children Ages Birth to 19 Years. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/injury_prevention/children/fact_sheets/birth-19_years/traumatic_brain_injury_prevention_birth-19_years.htm