The newest issue of Pediatrics is reporting that the number of children coming into the emergency room with head injuries is climbing exponentially. A study conducted by Dr. Holly Hanson, emergency medical fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center focused on ER admissions at the hospital from 2002-2011.
Dr. Hanson and her team analyzed data from nearly 4,000 children and teens admitted to the Medical Center during this ten year period. At first glance, the results are nothing less than astonishing — the number of children admitted for traumatic brain injuries rose 92%, causing the CDC to determine that concussions are a “serious health problem in the United States.” Leading causes of these injuries are football, skateboarding, rollerblading, skiing and sledding.
A study conducted in 2010 by Dr. Lisa Bakhos of Brown University’s Injury Prevention Center and Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence was similarly surprising. From 2001-2005, 502,000 children were admitted to ERs due to concussions; half of those injuries were sports related. This study showed that soccer was the main cause of head injuries in girls, although girls comprised only 1/5 reported head injuries during the four year period studied.
There are several reasons why these upticks in head injuries are disconcerting. First of all, they can have long lasting effects, as proven by the recent NFL settlement with former football players.
Additionally, the AAP explains that children who are admitted with a concussion are 2-4 times more likely to receive another one.
Although alarming, Dr. Hanson believes that some of the increase is due to an increased awareness of the seriousness of head injuries; she emphasized in an interview that further research is necessary to interpret her team’s findings.
Symptoms to be Aware of
According to the AAP, severity of head trauma is categorized by gradation:
- Grade I – mild: in this instance, the child may not be knocked out, but merely confused
- Grade II – moderate: child may be confused and may experience memory loss
- Grade III – severe: child is completely knocked out
Within the first two days of injury, parents are urged to look for the following signs:
- headache that doesn’t intensify
- impaired balance
- intermittent (but not constant) vomiting
The following symptoms require immediate medical attention:
- personality change, along with irritability and confusion
- headache that worsens and causes nausea and vomitting
- double or blurred vision
- unequal pupil size