Teaching Your Children About Traumatic Brain Injuries, TBI

For a parent, the health of their children is the most important thing in the world. To ensure their safety, we go to great lengths to teach our children about things they should and should not do, and we strive to raise their awareness of the dangers they might face.

One of the greatest dangers to people of all ages, but especially to young children, is traumatic brain injuries. This danger is not usually a centerpiece of the conversation we have with our kids, but it should be. Here is why:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children ages 0 to 4 and ages 15 to 19 are among the most likely to suffer from traumatic brain injuries, along with senior citizens.
  • Every year, half a million children ages 0 to 14 will visit emergency departments because of a traumatic brain injury.
  • One report published on the CDC's website found that TBI-related deaths among children were 6 times greater than HIV/AIDS, 20 times greater than asthma and 38 times greater than cystic fibrosis.
  • It is estimated that 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions - a subcategory of traumatic brain injury - occur every year among children in the United States.

How do TBIs happen?

  • The leading cause of traumatic brain injuries among children ages 0 to 14 are falls, accounting for more than half of all TBIs in this age group, according to the CDC.
  • Roughly one-tenth of athletes involved in contact sports suffer concussions every year.
  • In addition to falls and sports-related activities, the leading causes for traumatic brain injuries among children are motor vehicle crashes and physical abuse.

Now that we have a better understanding of how common these injuries are and how they happen, we can see that preventing traumatic brain injuries should be a major concern for all parents. One of the most important things that parents can do to make their children as safe as possible is to raise their awareness of the danger of brain injuries. Children should be as informed about brain injuries as they are about the dangers of electricity or the dangers of interacting with strangers.

While we do not want to scare our children about traumatic brain injury, TBI, we do need to make sure they understand the scope of brain injuries. If they understand how serious the problem is and how vulnerable they can be, they might be more likely to wear a helmet when biking or to consider the consequences of participating in certain sports or recreational activities. I am an avid bicycle rider and have been in many competitions. There was a time when people did not understand the danger of not wearing helmets. Now, everyone should wear a helmet. A friend of mine was saved from death by wearing an excellent helmet.

One of the biggest concerns, from both the medical community and from parents, about brain safety among children is the occurrence of head and brain injuries in contact sports like football. We rightly tend to have the discussion about this important topic with an emphasis on what coaches, schools and parents can do to make children safer while playing contact sports. Yet, we should also focus on making children more aware of the dangers inherent in these sports. If we do not stress how important this issue is, then we cannot expect our children to fully appreciate the risks or to make decisions that are in their best interest.

Brain injuries among children can have a lasting impact that affects them in ways that we are still discovering as more research is done in this field. While we do not know the full extent to which children are affected by brain injuries, we do know that they can be incredibly harmful and impact the development of a young person. Whether your child is a preschooler or a teenager, it is never too late to raise their awareness of the dangers of TBI.

Children should be taught that their brains are an incredibly delicate and important part of their anatomy. They should also be given the tools and the knowledge to recognize the dangers they face so that they can avoid suffering an injury that might impact them for the rest of their lives.

No matter how much we teach our children, however, there will be problems with head injuries so long as there are poorly manufactured products. Bad or dangerous helmets that crack under unacceptably low force loads raise serious liability concerns. This is true not only of helmets utilized in sports, but also in connection with higher speed activities such as biking and motorcycles. Brain injuries can occur from falling objects and poorly designed compartments in off-road and on-the-road vehicles. Poorly designed and dangerous roll bars are the cause of many head injuries. Poorly manufactured, defective or badly designed internal cages, posts on cars and other features of motor vehicles can be the cause of head and brain injuries. We know that poor design or badly operating airbags can cause people to sustain serious head injuries and brain trauma.

Some of the components of modern society that we take for granted can expose us to head and brain injuries. This can even include amusement park rides.

Being educated about the risk of brain and head trauma does not always protect children or adults.

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