Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spotlight on Safety: Protect their noggin!

A blog post I wrote for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette's MassMoms Blog:

March is Brain Injury Awareness month. Did you know that in the United States, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability in children? Those at greatest risk are children 0-4 and teens 15-19. It is estimated that 564,000 children every year suffer a TBI that requires a visit to the ER. 62,000 suffer severe injuries that require hospitalization. Approximately 2,685 children die as a result of TBI each year.

What is a traumatic brain injury? It is any blow to the head that results in a disruption of brain function. Common causes are a bump on the head, falls, car accidents, shaken baby syndrome and sport injuries. They can happen to anyone, anywhere and anytime. A common myth is that a concussion is not a brain injury. It is!

Because our brains are inside of our bodies, we cannot see when there is an injury from the outside. Bruises, cuts and swelling on the head give us a clue that there may be an injury to the brain, but you can have a TBI without any external signs of an injury. Our skull bones do a great job of protecting our brain, but injuries can and do occur. Often times, we have to rely on the symptoms of a brain injury to diagnose one. Sometimes they are obvious and immediate, other times they are subtle and develop over time. Being a keen observer can make the difference between life and permanent disability or death when it comes to a TBI.

In children, brain injury is especially concerning because their brains are still developing and vulnerable to injury. They also cannot always express what they are feeling or parents are unaware of what the signs of a brain injury are, so diagnosis can be a challenge.

Symptoms of a brain injury include nausea or vomiting, memory deficits, headaches, changes in balance, coordination and muscle tone or strength, fatigue or sleepiness, decreased attention, concentration, and ability to think, impaired judgment or impairments in vision, reading and writing. Some emotional changes might be mood swings, anxiety and depression, a lack of motivation, difficulty controlling emotions or self-esteem changes. In children, the effects of a brain injury are often long lasting and evident in school and in social situations for a long time after the injury. Some parents may think it’s just their child’s personality, but any change is cause for concern if there has been an injury to the head, no matter how minor it might have seemed.

Because even a seemingly minor fall or injury could result in a concussion or brain injury, it’s best to always call your pediatrician or take your child to the emergency room if your child sustains any bump or injury to their head. Close observation for any change in their physical, cognitive, social or emotional state should always happen for at least 24 hours after the injury. After an injury to the head or brain, it can take time, from minutes to hours for the effects of the injury to become evident. A child can seem fine immediately after the injury happens but have swelling or bleeding in the brain that you can’t see and over time, as it becomes worse, they can become very impaired or even die, which is why medical attention and close observation are necessary.

There are many things you can do to protect your child from a head or brain injury. Child proofing your home early and thoroughly is a great first step. Use window guards, gates at the top and bottom of stairways, door alarms or locks and be sure all furniture and TV’s are secured to the wall. Make sure your child is in a proper car or booster seat and with a 5 point harness and keep them rear facing for as long as possible. Insist your child always wear a helmet from their very first time when riding or using anything with wheels (bicycles, scooters, ride on toys, skates, etc.) and for all winter sports including sledding in the yard. If your child plays a sport, be sure they use all the proper protective equipment including head gear and check it for appropriate size and fit.

All parents, coaches and anyone who cares for your child should know CPR and First Aid and know where the nearest AED is. If you have not taken a formal CPR or First Aid class, or have not taken one in the past 5 years, it should be on your to do list for the next month! Although prevention is the best medicine, knowing how to treat an injury or what to do should your child stop breathing could save their life.

For additional information visit the Brain Injury Association of America


  1. My 6 yr old daughter had a tbi January 2012. She is very high functioning but still needing therapy on a regular basis. We, as parents are doing our best to make sure she gets all the help she may benefit from. Such a hard road, with very little guidelines. I am seeking other parents who have a child who has suffered a tbi. Need to connect and share.

  2. BlueHost is the best hosting company for any hosting plans you might need.