More teenagers with preventable brain injuries
I’ve written before about traumatic brain injuries in children. These sorts of injuries are frustratingly common — I’ve just seen several new ones. Although we’ll never eliminate them, there are many ways to reduce both their number and the severity of those that do occur. These ways are well known and extremely low-tech. Since car accidents are the leading cause of them in children, that is where we can really have an effect.
A small child who is unrestrained by a car seat is particularly likely to have a severe brain injury if involved in an accident, and that accident need not be at highway speeds. These days more and more parents know how to use car seats for their infants and toddlers, and over the past decade I’ve seen fewer and fewer injuries to unrestrained small children.
What I continue to see, however, are teenagers who are out by themselves, away from their parents, and don’t use a seat belt. The result is they are ejected from the car after impact, and this raises enormously the risk of severe brain injury. I’ve just seen yet another such case.
The most severe injuries come from what we call diffuse axonal injury, or shear injury. This injury results from the brain being jarred suddenly inside the skull, often with a bit of rotational effect. We call it shear injury because the force of impact shears apart the delicate wiring bundles that connect the nerve cells to one another. Most children recover to some extent, but some degree of permanent damage is common.
If you are interested in learning more about traumatic brain injury, the Brain Trauma Foundation is an excellent place to start.