According to the results of a disturbing new study, we can blame a large number of products and activities as causes of traumatic brain injury (TBIs) in babies, young children and teenagers. Published in the medical journal Brain Injury, the study singles out beds, bicycles, sports, floors, home furnishings, and child nursery equipment — like baby car seats — for causing the most TBIs in young people.
And possibly the most startling? Intention harm on the part of parents.
The study’s authors, including lead author Dr. Bina Ali from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, gathered data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, focusing on the span between 2010 and 2013. They found children aged 0-19 accounted for 4.1 million non-fatal TBI-related emergency room visits during that time period. The most common diagnosis was internal organ injury.
Home furnishings and fixtures were to blame for most TBIs in infants (42.7%) and children aged 1-4 years (32%). Beds were the primary culprit in that category, causing 25.4% of injuries in infants, and 9.7% of injuries in small children. Meanwhile, teenagers sustained most of their brain injuries while playing sports. Athletics and recreation were big villains in this study, contributing to 53.9% of TBIs in children aged 10-14 years, and 38.3% of TBIs in teenagers aged 15 and over. Football is to blame for most of the sports injuries.
Perhaps most surprising is that car seats were revealed to be the fifth leading cause of TBIs in infants. “Car seats are effective in preventing injuries in infants when used properly in cars,” Dr. Ali said. “However, sometimes car seats are used outside of the car as baby carriers. When they are handled inappropriately, they can pose a risk.”
The study found although most TBIs are unintentional, 6.1% are caused by someone intending to harm. They found teenagers between 15 and 19 are most susceptible to assault-related TBIs with the most common injuries
The researchers recommend a number of strategies for preventing traumatic brain injuries in and around the home. They suggest removing tripping hazards (i.e. area rugs), as well as improving lighting. They also advise parents to use safety devices like stair gates, guard rails, and stairway handrails that are “easily grasped and have no sharp edges.”
According to CNN, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of guidelines in 2018 for the diagnosis and treatment of children with TBIs. “The guidelines include asking health care providers to avoid routinely conducting imaging tests on children who have mild TBIs,” CNN reports. “[The guidelines also recommend] using age-appropriate symptom scales to diagnose concussions, assessing risk factors that would signal a prolonged recovery, [and] providing kids and their parents with instructions on how to return to activities based on their symptoms.”