Traumatic Brain Injuries in Children and Teenagers

teens watching the sunset - pediatric traumatic brain injury

A pediatric brain injury can have profound, even lifelong consequences for the young. Immediate medical intervention increases the chances of a favorable prognosis, but recognizing the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries in children and adolescents can be challenging, as their bodies do not respond to trauma in the same way that adults do. That’s why the New York personal injury attorneys of Finz & Finz, P.C. have provided this helpful explainer of what to look for if you suspect your child has suffered a head injury. 

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries happen when a sudden blow or violent jolt to the head damages the brain and disrupts its normal functioning. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in the United States, traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading causes of death and disability. The CDC also estimates that at least 3,000 children die from TBI annually. 

Medical professionals separate traumatic brain injuries into two distinct categories:

  • Closed Brain Injury – A closed injury is caused by blunt force trauma to the head. Children often suffer these injuries because of car accidents and sports mishaps. The force of the hit to the head causes the brain to crash into the skull, which can cause bleeding, swelling, and significant tissue damage. 
  • Penetrating Brain Injuries – Penetrating brain injuries occur when foreign material enters the brain. Bullets, flying debris from a car accident, and sharp items can cause penetrating brain injuries. 

Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Children and Adolescents 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. Other common causes of TBI in children and adolescents include:

  • Assault or violence
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Contact sport injuries
  • Motor vehicle accidents

Falls and shaken baby syndrome are the most common causes of pediatric traumatic brain injury. In older children and young adults, motor vehicle accidents and contact sports injuries are more likely to cause traumatic brain injuries. 

Childhood Concussion Symptoms 

Because children’s bodies are still developing, the effects of a pediatric traumatic brain injury can be especially profound. Moreover, their symptoms are often harder to detect. Very young children may not have the verbal capacity to indicate they are unwell or in what way. Adolescents and older children may be reluctant to talk about the signs and symptoms of a head injury, fearing they may be left out of sports or other activities while they recover.

As a parent, caregiver, or responsible adult, it is up to you to recognize the symptoms of a head injury in children and adolescents. Your knowledge and quick thinking may be the key to getting a child the timely medical help they need.

Infants, toddlers, and young children with TBI may exhibit some of the following signs of head injury:

  • Changing in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Changes in playing habits
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Persistent crying, inability to be consoled
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sudden loss of acquired language skills
  • Sudden loss of new skills

The symptoms of TBI may vary in older children and adolescents depending on the extent of the injury and the part of the brain affected. Children can experience physical, emotional, sensory, and cognitive changes due to a traumatic brain injury. Some of the signs to watch for include:

  • Anxiety
  • Behavioral changes
  • Challenges with decision-making 
  • Changes in hearing or vision
  • Changes in mood
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Changes in speech patterns 
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulties focusing or paying attention 
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue or lethargy 
  • Headache/pain
  • Impaired movement 
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control 
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of coordination or mobility
  • Loss of language or communication skills
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting

Physical signs of traumatic head injuries include bruising or bleeding around the head or neck area, depending on the mechanism of injury. Any changes in your child’s appearance or behavior, especially following an accident, should be evaluated and monitored by a medical professional. 

Long-Term Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Children

Research indicates the brain finishes maturing and developing by the mid-to-late 20s. The brains of children and adolescents are constantly evolving and adapting, which means they respond differently to stress and trauma. In addition to disrupting physical and mental development, a TBI can also limit a child’s ability to participate in school, social activities, and sports. 

Early medical intervention is vital for children suffering traumatic brain injuries. Physical and rehabilitative therapies can help children improve their coordination and motor function. Various therapies designed to remediate lost functions, address negative behaviors or thinking patterns, and develop new skills can also address speech, language, and cognitive complications. 

Retraining damaged parts of the brain may be possible during the recovery process. Training different parts of the brain to compensate for damage in other areas may be possible in young, developing brains. However, some traumatic brain injuries can cause permanent physical and mental disabilities. 

Recovering Compensation for Your Child’s TBI

If your child suffered a traumatic brain injury and someone else is to blame, they could owe your family money for:

  • Assistive devices and equipment
  • Emotional distress
  • Home modifications
  • Long-term care
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Special education costs
  • Pain and suffering

Contact a New York Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney for Help 

A brain injury can change your child’s personality, behavior, and physical abilities, affecting your child for months, years, or perhaps the rest of their life. Your family shouldn’t have to pay for the consequences of another person’s careless actions. If your child suffered a TBI and someone else is at fault, contact Finz & Finz, P.C. today for the support and legal advice you deserve. One of our New York City injury attorneys can review your case, determine who might owe you compensation and how much, and pursue it vigorously and aggressively – all without any upfront cost to you.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.