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Brain Injury in Infants and Children
Children are especially vulnerable to brain injuries. It was once thought that children were more resistant to brain trauma because of their developing brains; however, evidence suggests just the opposite. Also, a child’s skull is particularly delicate. Studies show that a child’s skull is only 1/8 as strong as adult skulls. They therefore are less able to withstand blows to the head.
With more than one million children who sustain brain injuries every year, brain injury is the most common cause of disability and death among children in the United States. Brain injuries among children are so frequent that they account for over one hundred thousand hospitalizations annually. The injury is usually caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, sporting injuries, bicycle accidents, and child abuse.
Head injuries among children who are age three and younger will often be the result of learning to crawl, walk, and control their body functions. Younger children cannot control the muscles in their neck nor the movement in their head as easily as adults, so they are more likely to bump their heads.
When a baby is thrown, shaken, or slammed, it causes the baby’s head to move forward and backward rapidly and causes the brain to jostle and hit the sides of the skull. This is known as “shaken baby syndrome” and is a form of child abuse. The results can be devastating, including bleeding in the eyes and bleeding in the brain or even permanent brain damage.
Due to a child’s development, some neurologic deficits may not manifest itself until years after the initial trauma. Additionally, some of the skills that are impacted by the brain injury may not be tested until the child reaches school age, such as slowed reading and writing skills.