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How the Risk of Brain Injuries Shift as Children Age

A recent study has been released by the New England Journal of Medicine, which statistically measures the risks of traumatic brain injuries as children grow up.  It can be particularly important for parents and children to be aware of how children usually suffer brain trauma during a certain stage in life, so they can take the necessary steps to avoid any severe injuries.  Because children’s activities change as they grow older, the types of situations in which they can be harmed changes as well.  As their form of movement evolves, from crawling to walking to driving, so too does the way in which they get injured.

The Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network analyzed 43,000 children taken to emergency rooms due to blunt force head trauma from the years 2004 to 2006.  For children two years of age and younger, the leading cause of hospitalization could be described as a fall from elevation, rounded at 54%.   The next largest risk were falls from stairways at 14%; the subsequent largest risk simply coming from walking, running, or even being at a standstill.  Unsurprisingly, these types of injuries occur frequently for children still unsure of their step.

For ages two to twelve, the leading risk is again falling from elevation, but at a much lower percentage, 24%, while injuries occurred from walking and running surprising increases to 14%.  Since children at this age are much more active and energetic they tend to accidently injure themselves.  The third largest risk from the ages of two to twelve happens to be being struck accidently over the head by some type of object.

The last age group documented, thirteen to seventeen, sees a drastic change in potential risks; 24% of the brain injuries stem from some form of outright assault.  The next largest risk comes from sports, 19%, presumably because boys are now starting to play football at a much higher and serious level.  At younger ages, sports tend to be friendlier, played with less importance on the result.  The last largest risk at 18% is motor vehicle accidents.  Since you cannot obtain a drivers license until the age of sixteen, this number seems unequivocally high for presumably only half of the range.

“If you look at the younger kids, the fact that motor vehicle accidents are not showing up as significant causes [of head injuries] probably means we’re doing a pretty good job on car seats and adequate infant car protection,” say Dr. Mark Proctor, a neurosurgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital who was unaffiliated with the study.

This study can undoubtedly aid parents and children in making decisions to prevent and avoid traumatic brain injuries.  Perhaps limiting the unrestricted use of vehicles or being critically aware of your young child still learning how to walk will thwart unnecessary risks.

Source: NPR and New England Journal of Medicine