March is brain injury awareness month
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading source of childhood injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost half a million emergency department visits for TBIs are made each year for children ages 0-14.
Children affected by TBIs are likely to need extensive intervention and educational support in order to reach optimal recovery. It is important to be aware of the various causes of TBIs and techniques for preventing these injuries, especially in children.
A traumatic brain injury is one of the most common types of brain injuries, and is caused by trauma to the brain from an external force.
This may include a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.
Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI.
The severity of a TBI may range from “mild” (i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to “severe” (i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or memory loss after the injury).
Most TBIs that occur each year are classified as mild, commonly called concussions. However, even this level of injury in children is associated with ongoing problems.
Common causes of TBIs in children:
- Vehicle-related collisions
- Sports injuries
Tips for avoiding traumatic brain injuries in children:
- Install window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows.
- Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when young children are around.
- Keep stairs clear of clutter.
- Secure rugs and rubber mats in bathtubs.
- Do not allow children to play on fire escapes or other unsafe platforms.
- Make sure playground surfaces are made of shock-absorbing materials, such as hardwood mulch or sand, and are maintained to an appropriate depth.
Wear Helmets When:
- Riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter, or all-terrain vehicle
- Playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or boxing
- Using in-line skates or riding a skateboard
- Batting and running bases in baseball or softball
- Riding a horse
- Skiing or snowboarding
- Always have children wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle. A small child should always sit in the back seat of a car and be secured in a child safety seat or booster seat that is appropriate for his or her size and weight.
- Children should start using a booster seat when they outgrow their child safety seats (usually when they weight about 40 to 65 pounds; check the owner’s manual for the seat). They should continue to ride in a booster seat until the lap/shoulder belts in the car fit properly, which is typically when they are 4’9” tall.
- Play by the rules. Teach young athletes to respect the rules of their sport.
- Have children wear appropriate equipment for their sport. Always close a chin strap if your sport requires a helmet; many concussions occur during practice.
- Examine the playing field for uneven areas or holes.
- Make sure end posts are padded sufficiently.
- Practice good sportsmanship. Minimize unnecessary aggression on the field.
If your child experiences a visible head injury, take him or her immediately to an urgent care clinic or pediatric emergency room.
Mercy offers six urgent care clinics in the Des Moines metro with evening and weekend hours. Mercy Children’s Hospital & Clinics also has a 24/7 Level II verified pediatric trauma center and emergency department at our downtown location.
If you suspect your child may have a head injury that can’t be seen, contact his pediatrician to see what they recommend for care. Mercy Children’s Hospital & Clinics has several pediatric clinics in the Des Moines area. To find one near you, please call the Mercy Nurse at (515) 643-2584.
This is the 3rd in a 6-part series from Mercy Des Moines. Find the rest of the posts below: