Addressing Traumatic Brain Injury Risk in Kids’ Falls and Accidents in Washington

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half a million kids are seen in emergency rooms for TBI each year in the US. Falls, motor vehicle crashes, sports injuries, and assaults are common causes of TBI in children. As parents and caregivers, it’s crucial that we understand the risks and take steps to prevent TBIs in kids. This is especially important here in Washington state, where accidental injuries are a leading cause of death for those 1 to 44 years old.

Understanding TBI in Children

A TBI occurs when an external force impacts the head hard enough to cause damage to the brain. The severity can range from mild to severe. Some common causes of TBI in kids include:

  • Falls– The most common cause of TBI in young children is falls. Toddlers learning to walk and climb are especially susceptible to falling and hitting their heads on floors, furniture, stairs, or playground equipment.
  • Motor vehicle crashesCar accidents, whether the child is a passenger or a pedestrian, are a major cause of TBI in older children and teens.
  • Sports and recreation activities– Contact sports like football and soccer, as well as non-contact sports like gymnastics and cheerleading, can lead to head injuries in kids and teens. Bike riding, skateboarding, and playground activities also pose a risk.
  • Child abuse– Sadly, child abuse is another cause of TBI, often in infants and young children. Abusive head trauma, also called shaken baby syndrome, occurs when a baby’s head is forcefully shaken.

The initial injury can have wide-ranging effects. It may result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding, swelling, and damage to the brain. Secondary effects can include seizures, blood clots, impaired cognition, and emotional/behavioral problems. The outcomes range from a quick recovery to disabilities that require lifelong care.

Factors That Increase Risk in Washington State

Certain factors in our state may raise the risk of TBI in children. Some of these include:

  • Recreational activities – With mountains, lakes, rivers, hiking trails, and ski slopes, Washington offers endless recreation. However, activities like bicycling, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, and water sports can lead to head injuries if proper safety precautions aren’t taken.
  • Rural areas – Many parts of Washington are rural. Long distances between homes can mean delayed emergency response times after an injury. Rural kids are also more likely to ride ATVs and engage in other activities with TBI risks.
  • Socioeconomics – Lower income areas often have higher rates of TBI. Reasons may include lack of access to safe play areas, lower rates of helmet use, and participation in contact sports like football and soccer.
  • Proximity to Canada– With an international border crossing, Washington has a high rate of motor vehicle crashes involving Canadian drivers who may be unfamiliar with American roads.

Preventing TBI in Kids and Teens

The good news is many kids’ head injuries can be prevented through proper adult supervision, education, safety gear, and environmental modifications. Some tips include:

Home Safety

  • Use window guards and safety gates at stairways for babies and toddlers.
  • Ensure play areas have soft surfaces under play equipment.
  • Don’t allow kids to play where they may fall on hard surfaces.
  • Secure TVs and furniture to prevent tip-overs.
  • Store hazardous items like cleaners and medications up and away.

Car and Booster Seats

  • Use rear-facing seats up to age 2, forward-facing to age 5, and boosters to age 10-12.
  • Make sure the seat is installed correctly.
  • Never leave a child alone in a vehicle.

Bike and Sports Safety

  • Ensure kids wear helmets when biking, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, riding scooters, etc. Replace helmets after any impact.
  • Learn proper tackling techniques for contact sports like football.
  • Follow guidelines for concussion evaluation and recovery if a head injury occurs.

Supervision and Education

  • Closely supervise young kids at playgrounds and in play areas.
  • Teach school-age children safety rules when riding bikes, crossing streets, etc.
  • Educate tweens and teens on the risks of dangerous behaviors like texting while driving.
  • Be aware of signs of abusive head trauma in infants.

Other Precautions

  • Check play areas for potential fall hazards before allowing kids to play.
  • Enroll children in swim lessons to prevent drowning accidents.
  • Ensure childcare providers and schools have protocols for preventing and handling head injuries.
  • Advocate for safety measures like bike lanes, lighting, and speed bumps in your neighborhood.

What to Do After an Accident

If your child suffers a head injury from a fall or accident, it’s important to respond quickly. Seek emergency care for any of the following:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe headache
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Confusion, drowsiness, or agitation
  • Bleeding from the head injury

For a mild bump or head injury, watch your child closely over the next 24 hours. Symptoms like drowsiness, headache, nausea, sensitivity to light or noise may indicate a concussion. Apply ice to swollen areas and contact your child’s doctor right away. Follow their guidance on evaluating for concussions and allowing age-appropriate activities. Seek care immediately if symptoms worsen.

After any significant head injury, continue monitoring your child for several days for delayed symptoms like personality changes, difficulty concentrating or remembering, disturbed sleep patterns, etc. Kids should be evaluated by a doctor for any head injury involving a hard bump, blow, or jolt. Be sure to document the details of the incident through photos, videos, notes, etc.

Not All TBIs Are Accidental

If your child suffered a TBI due to the negligence of another person or company, contact our office. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at Monge & Associates have helped many local families obtain compensation after bicycle crashes, motor vehicle collisions, daycare accidents, and other preventable injuries involving minors. We handle communications with insurance companies and aggressively pursue the maximum settlement so you can focus on your child’s recovery.

Monge & Associates has 32 offices in 19 states, including Washington, Nebraska, and South Carolina. Call today on (888) 477-0597 or fill out our online form for a free consultation.