Consumer Products Causing Nearly 75 Percent of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Kids Under 19: Study

A huge report from 66 hospitals reveals that beds, floors and American football are the leading causes of non-fatal traumatic brain injuries in kids under 19

When we think of concussions, traumatic brain injuries and serious head and brain injuries, we tend to associate them with trauma, collisions and catastrophic incidents.

It’s common to hear about concussions from football or other sports collisions, falls and accidents. Stories about children thrown from bikes or horses or who fall from heights being diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) are frequently in the news and in our social media newsfeeds.

Less frequent and less common are stories about tragic bed accidents causing concussions and TBI’s. Same thing with floors and other consumer and household items.

So when a vast report that looked at products and activities associated with non-fatal traumatic brain injuries revealed that floors and beds share the unhappy blame spotlight for concussions and other TBI’s with American Football, lots of people must have done a double-take. But reports from 66 US hospital emergency rooms tell us exactly that

Floors? Beds? Concussions and other TBI’S? Really? Yes, really.

The study, published in Brain Injury, shows that 72% of cases across all age groups were attributable to consumer products that are regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“Structural designs, such as uneven flooring, often contribute to falls, which is the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in children,” says lead author Dr Bina Ali from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in the US.

She adds: “In most cases, infants and children are safe in bed and when playing sports outside, but our study highlights some of the risks and the priorities in different age groups for preventing serious head injuries.”

The research team reviewed surveillance reporting data from 2010 to 2013 (inclusive.) Their work focused on children and adolescents across five age groups between 0 and 19 years of age, identifying the products associated with their injuries. The result is a comprehensive understanding of how consumer products contribute to the occurrence, frequency and severity of traumatic brain injuries in children and adolescents.

Children and adolescents accounted for approximately one million non-fatal traumatic brain injury cases treated in emergency departments per year.

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In infants under a year, a quarter were caused by falling from beds, while floors were the second leading cause at 14%.

The authors highlight bunk beds as especially risky. In children aged one to four years, 10% were caused by beds, 10% by stairs and 10% by floors.

As children became more mobile, the leading causes of head injuries moved outside the home.

  • At aged five to nine years, floors were still the leading cause (6%), but bicycle accidents came second at 5%.
  • In the final two age groups, 10-14 years and 15-19 years, American football was the leading cause of traumatic brain injury — at 14% in the younger age group and 9% in the oldest. Basketball came second at 6% and 5% respectively.
  • Other activities that contributed to traumatic brain injuries in the final two age groups included bicycles (5% in 10 to 14-year-olds and 3% in 15 to 19-year-olds) and soccer (5% in 10 to 14-year-olds and 4% in 15 to 19-year-olds).

“Simple measures such as removing trip hazards, using stair gates and guard rails, avoiding hard surface playgrounds and wearing helmets could help reduce the risk of injury, as well as adult education to ensure proper use of consumer products and adherence to safety guidelines” says Ali.

The authors note several limitations to the study. These included the fact that only patients treated in hospital emergency departments were included. Because the authors lacked location information, they weren’t able to investigate where the injuries were sustained. Additionally, the variation of injuries by socioeconomic status was impossible to discern.

Whatever the limitations, the revelations from this study are fascinating. While most of us are likely to have notions of what causes traumatic brain injuries and concussions, we probably weren’t considering some of the stated causal factors the authors found.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be keeping a closer eye on my floors and my bed from here on out…

Keep the faith and keep after it!

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Journal Reference – Bina Ali, Bruce A. Lawrence, Ted Miller, Jennifer Allison. Products and activities associated with non-fatal traumatic brain injuries in children and adolescents – United States 2010-2013. Brain Injury, 2019

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