Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability among children in New Jersey and throughout the country.
As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, the rate of emergency room TBI-related visits is higher among children than among any other age group.
A traumatic brain injury can immediately affect a child’s cognition, which may be accompanied by a variety of physical side effects, too. However, the most alarming aspect of child brain injuries is the long-term impact.
Common Types of Childhood Head Injuries
Children are curious creatures. They may get themselves into potentially dangerous situations that result in a head injury.
However, not all brain injuries are the child’s fault. In some cases, a child may incur a head injury because of the negligence of an adult.
Some common causes of childhood head injuries include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Car accidents
- Unintentional blunt trauma, such as being hit by an object
- Sports-related injuries, including concussions that coaches and athletic trainers mismanage.
Around 475,00 U.S. children between the ages of 0 to 14 suffer traumatic brain injuries annually, according to an article in the journal Neurologia Medico-Chirurgica. Falls, abuse, and motor vehicle accidents were the leading causes of TBIs in children four and under. For children aged 4 to 8, falls and car accidents remained the top causes of traumatic brain injury, but other “transportation-related accidents,” such as bicycle crashes, are other top causes of pediatric TBIs.
Hospitalization is most common among adolescents, with car crashes serving as the most common cause of TBIs in teenagers.
When a child is involved in any of the accidents listed above, they may sustain the following types of brain injuries:
- Concussion (one of the most common brain injury types)
- Contusion (bleeding on the brain)
- Coup-contrecoup (an injury on both sides of the brain)
- Diffuse axonal (typically caused by shaking or forceful rotation)
- Penetration (where an object breaks through the skull).
Brain Injury During Childhood Can Affect a Person for Life
A brain injury can affect an individual’s life and health in three primary ways:
- Cognitive deficits – One of the most devastating consequences of TBI is related to a child’s ability to think, remember information, learn, speak and communicate, write and read, reason, and understand information. The injury can present a serious learning disability that sets a child back for years to come.
- Physical deficits – In addition to trouble with cognition, it is not uncommon for traumatic brain injuries in children to have a physical effect as well. Common physical deficits that a child may experience are problems with motor control, visual impairment, and problems with balance and coordination.
- Emotional deficits – Because of their underdeveloped brains, children often struggle with managing their emotions and understanding social cues. These are skills that are learned with time and acquired as the brain develops and matures. A TBI cannot only halt that process but also result in emotional deficits. A child who has suffered a TBI may cry frequently, experience depression or anxiety, suffer from behavioral changes, display aggression or violence, be unable to function in social settings, act out, and struggle from other emotional setbacks.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of a Child Head Injury?
Time magazine reports that “the effects [of a brain injury] may be longer-lasting than researchers thought,” particularly in younger children who suffer from TBI.
The magazine reports on a study in which researchers followed 40 children, all of whom had suffered a brain injury between the ages of 2 to 7.
Most of the injuries were caused by a car accident or a fall. Those children with the most severe brain injuries showed the most severe deficits throughout the study.
The deficits researchers most commonly observed included difficulties in higher learning capabilities such as:
The researchers also found how regions of the brain which control the higher learning skills are also the parts that develop fastest in life. Thus, any disturbance to normal growth in these regions can have a lasting effect on a child.
Because a child’s brain is still developing, a brain injury may be more devastating for the child compared to an adult. As such, brain development tends to lag after a brain injury rather than developing at the same pace it would have experienced before the injury.
While a child’s brain will continue developing in most cases following a brain injury, the brain cannot recover completely, the study found.
It is important to note that this research pertains to children with serious traumatic brain injury. Children who have suffered minor brain injuries such as mild concussions will likely not be as seriously affected.
Recovering Compensation for Your Family
If your child has suffered a brain injury, they must get the medical care needed to reduce the chances of long-term impairment. This may include working with therapists and specialists who can provide professional, supportive care.
In addition to medical and therapy bills that your family has incurred, your child may require extra tutoring to get caught up in school. The child may also suffer from a diminished quality of life because they cannot do the things they once loved, such as playing a favorite sport, engaging in a hobby, or socializing with others.
At the Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, our highly skilled traumatic brain injury attorneys can help your family pursue damages for your losses if your child suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence.
This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in November 2021.
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Since 1981, the compassionate personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon have been delivering results for our deserving clients. We are solely committed to helping injured individuals, never representing corporations. No matter how large or small your personal injury case is, you can trust that it is important to us.