Traumatic Brain Injuries
A traumatic brain injury is any injury that results from one or more blows to the head, often resulting in micro tears inside of the brain that swell with fluid over time. This can result in a number of degenerative neurological conditions and poses a threat to the healthy development of any child who has suffered from such an injury. Over 473,000 children under the age of 14 are admitted to hospitals yearly with TBIs and a great number could have been prevented had parents taken appropriate precautions to protect their families.
How Best to Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries
Since there are so many different ways a child can suffer an injury to the head, it may feel like a daunting task to fully protect your child. There are many things that you can do, however, which will significantly reduce your child’s risk. These include the following.
- Making sure that the playgrounds your children are allowed to play on are made with surface materials designed to absorb the force of impact. Such materials include sand, wood pulp, mulch and rubber.
- Installing guards on your windows to eliminate the possibility your child will fall from an open window. Screens are not capable of preventing a child from falling through most windows, so you need to take this added step to ensure your child is unable to breach the window.
- Driving in a responsible manner. Many traumatic brain injuries occur during car accidents, so it is important to make sure that your children are properly secured in your vehicle. Those old enough to ride without the use of a car seat should wear seat belts and you should make sure that your car seat is used according to manufacturer guidelines. Never drive while distracted, as this greatly increases the risk of an accident.
- Using child safety gates to prevent falls down staircases. Falls have been linked to many childhood TBIs, so taking any additional measures to prevent falls around the home will protect your children.
- Providing adequate safety equipment for children participating in sports. The use of properly fitted and operational equipment can greatly limit the severity of injuries.
- Checking to make sure that your child’s coaches are trained on how best to both recognize and avoid traumatic injuries to the head. Coaches need to be able to teach proper form, to encourage safe practices and to pull players from the field who are showing symptoms of a concussion or trauma to the head.
How to Recognize a Traumatic Brain Injury
One of the reasons many children suffer severe long term injuries due to TBIs is that they can be asymptomatic at first. If your child has hit his or her head, it is best to test for a TBI immediately rather than to wait for symptoms to show, as irreversible damage may occur during the days and weeks following the accident. Some of the symptoms of TBI include the following.
- The loss of motor function or coordination. This can include muscle spasticity, loss of balance and loss of eye and hand coordination.
- Changes in vision, hearing or speech patterns. Your child may also have difficulty understanding others.
- Inability to concentrate or to recall events. This can manifest through declining grades and the inability to pay attention to anything for an extended period of time.
- Changes in mood. Sudden mood swings, depression, anxiety, anger and narcissism can all be signs that your child has suffered a TBI if these disorders follow an injury to the head.
While anyone who has suffered a TBI risks lifelong impairment, adults are far more likely to recover than children. The reason for this is that the injury disrupts the development of the child’s brain, possibly making them fall behind their peers mentally and physically due to their injuries. Children who suffer from these injuries often have difficulty coping because they are cognizant enough of their situation to know what they were once capable of and are now lacking.
If your child has suffered a traumatic brain injury, it is important to be supportive and to adjust your expectations to his or her new ability levels. For more information on how to prevent, recognize and treat these injuries, you can visit any of the following resources.