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Most children in New Hampshire will probably hit their head at some point before they turn 18. A bump on the head is not necessarily a problem; for many, the bruising and swelling go away quickly without any issues.

However, when the blow causes bruising, torn blood vessels and other damage inside the skull, disrupting the brain’s normal function, medical professionals consider it a traumatic brain injury.

Common causes

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the most common cause of TBIs in children up to the age of 14 is falling (50.2%), followed by struck by/against incidents (24.8%) and motor vehicle accidents (6.8%). Assault, such as shaken baby syndrome and other abuse, causes 2.9% of TBIs in children, and these events are the most common causes of TBI for babies, toddlers and preschool-age children. In 15.3% of the cases, the cause is unknown.

Severity

Medical professionals use the Glasgow Coma Scale and imaging such as CT scans and MRIs to evaluate the severity of a TBI.

  • Mild: Unconscious for less than 30 minutes (or no loss of consciousness), GCS of 13 to 15, and post-traumatic amnesia for no more than 24 hours
  • Moderate: Loss of consciousness and/or post-traumatic amnesia for between one and 24 hours and a GCS of 9 to 12
  • Severe: More than 24 hours of unconsciousness, post-traumatic amnesia for over seven days and a GCS of 3 to 8

Recovery challenges

Brainline.org points out that while an adult may begin noticing functional changes such as confusion, problems processing information or difficulty focusing in the days or weeks after the injury, the effect on a child may take much longer to discover. Certain areas of the brain may not be developed yet, so the damage may not be apparent until the child reaches that developmental stage. However, there may be many immediate changes that seem devastating, such as the loss of athletic skills or academic abilities.

Children may face a number of emotional and social challenges in addition to the physical and mental issues. They may also have difficulties managing the frustration that they feel at losing abilities and skills they had before the injury. The child and the entire family may benefit from developing a strong support network that includes neighbors, friends, school personnel and professionals.