Following a traumatic brain injury, kids often face significant hurdles in recovery, due to gaps in childhood head injury care in the United States, according to a new federal report.
Researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised warnings in a report issued last month to Congress, titled “The Management of Traumatic Brain Injury in Children”, which highlights gaps in care concerning childhood traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and the steps that need to be taken to help children recovery fully.
In 2013, more than 640,000 emergency room visits involved childhood concussions, leading to 18,000 hospitalizations and 1,500 deaths among children 14 years and younger. Research published in 2016 indicates that more than 2 million children suffer a head injury each year, and most don’t get the medical attention needed.
The CDC report warns that children have the highest rate of ER visits for brain trauma of all age groups, including adults. Other studies have warned that those who suffer from traumatic brain injuries may be twice as likely to die from unintentional injury later.
According to the federal health agency, services designed to support TBI management in children after injury have declined in availability, length of time and consistency. However, the CDC indicates that there are many areas where gaps in care must be addressed to help support children who have experienced head injuries. Those include:
- Accessing specialized care in a trauma center at the time of injury.
- Offering family support and training.
- Providing post-injury support at school.
- Offering long term management to monitor health after head injuries.
- Guidelines for return to activity, including organized sports and informal play.
- Help with the transition to adulthood for children with brain trauma.
- More research into long-term TBI outcomes.
The leading causes of head trauma in children are falls and being struck by, or against, an object. However, the second most common cause for head injuries were sports and recreational activities. A 2016 study indicated the number of TBIs diagnosed after playground falls is increasing across the country. Similarly, youth soccer head injuries have skyrocketed since 1990.
The CDC also warned that there is a lack of awareness among educators concerning the effects of head injuries on learning.
A study published in 2016 indicated children may have long-term impairments in behavior and academic performance even after a mild head trauma.
According to the CDC report, brain injuries affect children differently than adults. They can disrupt normal function of the brain, impair a child’s development, lead to poor grades, higher rates of being held back in school, and the need for more special education services than their uninjured peers.
Children who suffer a head injury can experience changes in health, thinking and behavior that affect learning, self regulation and social participation. These are all important aspects of learning to become a productive adult.
One CDC report indicated 7% of US children suffer a head injury during childhood. To that end, the CDC viewed the newest report as a “call-to-action” to help improve the care children receive after being diagnosed with a TBI.