Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) result from accidents that result in closed-head (no break in the skull, e.g., a concussion) and open-head trauma. A TBI is life-threatening and often life-altering. About 2,600 children die from TBIs and another 62,000 (under age 19) are hospitalized with head trauma every year. The most common types of accidents leading to TBIs are motor vehicle crashes, falls, physical abuse and sports injuries.
According to the Brain Injury Association of America, brain injuries in children warrant special attention and concern:
- Younger brains are affected differently. It was previously assumed that immature brains had greater plasticity, that growth would spur recovery. However, more current research shows TBIs might cause greater damage to children than adults.
- The effects of brain injury can be delayed. Some children show no sign of impaired cognitive skills until several years following their injuries, when a learning disability surfaces (but often after the injury is forgotten).
- Impairments vary. The physical, cognitive and emotional damage can range from speech difficulties to impairments in vision, motor coordination, balance, short-term memory, attention span and judgment. Children may also exhibit mood swings, depression, anxiety and self-centeredness.
On a positive note, more TBI patients are attending college, thanks to increased understanding of how the brain works and how people with TBI can continue their development. The severity of the injury does, of course, affect an individual’s ability to function at a college level.
To access the best resources available for treating a pediatric TBI, victims may need to sue parties responsible for their injuries and seek legal counsel.