Age Groups

Understanding Brain Injury in Children

brain injury in children

Injuries to the head caused by a violent blow are otherwise known as traumatic brain injuries or TBI. This kind of injury is more common than we think. In 2020, about 176 Americans died from TBI-related causes every day.

Young children and teenagers are some of the groups most susceptible to head injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.8% of children aged 17 and under had ever had symptoms of a brain injury or a concussion.

Of the children within this age range, only 3.9% ever had a diagnosis of a concussion or brain injury from a health care provider. In 2019, sports or recreation-related concussions were self-reported by about 15% of all American high school students.

The number of children that have ever exhibited symptoms of a mild head injury or concussion increases with age. Children ages 12-17 were more likely to sustain a brain injury than children ages 0-5.

Brain Injury in Children Vs. Adults

Young children are more likely to sustain head injuries than adults due to their heavy heads and weak ligaments in their cervical spine. Therefore the resulting brain injury results in severe brain injury due to their malleable skulls and unfused sutures.

Due to their sensitivity caused by age, children under the age of 4 with a severe pediatric brain injury are less likely to make a full recovery. Whereas, neurological rehabilitation from a mild brain injury is often better in children than in older adults.

Although there are many studies that support the treatment and recovery in adults, the same cannot be said for children. Children with brain injuries cannot receive the exact same treatment an adult may receive.

Unlike adults, traumatic injuries sustained at a young age are more likely to affect children in their development. Children who suffer from a severe injury can lose some or all functions in one or more muscles. As well as the ability to speak, see, hear, or taste.

As previously mentioned, the risk of brain injury is much higher in teenagers than in small children. Traumatic brain injuries are also more often sustained by boys than girls.

Although many traumatic brain injuries are caused by accidental falls or motor vehicle accidents, among teens, brain injuries are often sports injuries sustained due to contact sports or outdoor activities such as skateboarding or bike riding.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) reports that over 21% of brain injury in children and adolescents were caused by recreational activities. Minor head injuries or concussions are very common among athletes, especially football players. But take note that what can initially manifest as a mild injury can actually be highly problematic underneath. 

Symptoms Of Brain Injury in Children

Although some symptoms in adults may be similar to that in children, young children and infants may not be able to properly communicate these symptoms. If you suspect your child has sustained a pediatric brain injury, you may look out for the following:

  • Easily irritable
  • Constant crying or difficulty in being comforted
  • Difficulty or inability to pay attention
  • Change in eating or breastfeeding routine
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Mood changes or more depressive moods
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys

Some other symptoms that may be common in children and in adults are:

  • Headaches
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Problems with concentration
  • Problems with vision, including blurred vision or double vision
  • Loss of consciousness or difficulty in being awakened
  • Dilated pupil
  • Speech problems
  • Blood or clear fluid draining from the nose or ears
  • Bruising or bumps in the swollen area

What To Expect

If your child is exhibiting any of the previously mentioned symptoms or loss in cognitive functions following a blow to the head, you must take them to see a health professional as soon as possible. Your child’s doctor may need to run some diagnostic tests to get a fuller picture of the severity of your child’s injury.

Depending on where the traumatic injury was sustained, the long-term and short-term effects your child will experience may vary. Some of these effects may be behavioral or change in personality. Long-term effects of traumatic brain injury in children may include speech or language disorders, lowered cognitive and academic skills, and more.

Road to Recovery

Symptoms, general health, and your child’s age are all factors that come into play regarding your child’s treatment. Their treatment may also be reliant on the severity of the head injury.

Depending on the severity of the injury, your child’s treatment may include:

  • Icing the injured area
  • Rest
  • Antibiotic ointment and bandaging
  • Stitches in the scalp to close an open wound
  • Constant observation
  • Immediate medical care
  • Hospitalization
  • Assistance in breathing through a machine such as a mechanical ventilator or respirator
  • Referral to a traumatic brain injury specialist

Your child must also be monitored for increased intracranial pressure, which can be identified through various diagnostic imaging tests. This could mean an operation will be needed, or your child may be required to stay in an intensive care unit. 

Traumatic brain injury in children may also result in skull fractures. A skull fracture is when a break in the cranial bone (skull) occurs. There are four types of skull fractures: linear, depressed, diastatic, and basilar.

Improving Recovery From Brain Injury in Children

After discharge, it is crucial that an injured child must continue their recovery process even at home. During this time, you may explore other forms of therapy or activities that may help promote the process of neuroplasticity, to help improve your child’s recovery rate.

For years, it was believed that the brain was a “nonrenewable organ”. But thanks to advances in science and neurobiology, we now know that this isn’t the case. The brain is constantly rewiring itself throughout our lifetime, shaping itself through our experiences. So the answer to the question “Can the brain heal itself from damage?” the answer is yes.

Neuroplasticity is the process used to strengthen neural connections through repetition and practice. As previously mentioned, the brain shapes itself through experiences. Hence, continually repeated actions will strengthen the neural pathway.

Through this process, therapy such as physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy are highly encouraged to help optimize recovery.

Get the Help Your Child Needs

At Brain Injury Help Center California, we can help you and your family get the support and resources your child needs to recover from their injury. If your child has sustained a traumatic brain injury, our team can help you get the medical care needed.

In the event that your child’s injury was caused by a negligent party, we can also put you in touch with a team of experienced and compassionate personal injury lawyers who can help you win the compensation your child deserves.

Do not hesitate to contact us at (866) 576-0936 to get the help your child needs.

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