Last weekend, I watched one of my friend's children wrestle in a local township tournament. There was quite a bit of waiting around. We were sitting in the bleachers of an old school gym for a few hours. I happened to be sitting next to a man who was watching videos of his son in a football game on his video camera. I heard the dad boast to his friend, as both watched the video, "watch my kid get his bell rung." The dad laughed as he watched the video again.
Judging by the what I could see in the video and the age range of the kids at the tournament, his son couldn't have been over 10. Yes, I'm a mom and yes I'm a lawyer, and this means that my brain starts firing when I see or hear something that I know is dangerous. Knowing what I know about head injuries, I wondered if this boy's mother knew that her son had his "bell rung."
Philadelphia is a huge sports town. From ice hockey to baseball and football, I don't know of a household where the television isn't on some sports event at least one night a week, especially during baseball and football season. That love of sports translates into having our kids play sports. My son is 6 and has been playing t-ball since he was 3. We now have him play soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring, and as a mom and lawyer, I watch him closely to make sure he doesn't hit his head. If he did, I'd be watching more closely in the weeks following because I know how dangerous head injuries are.
There are no recent long term studies of how brain injuries affect school aged children who suffer head impacts. However, one study showed that infants who suffer head injuries are likely to have long term deficits. That study, "Late Neurologic and Cognitive Sequelae of Inflicted Traumatic Brain Injury in Infancy," was published in the journal, Pediatrics, roughly 8 years ago.
Researchers followed 25 infants who suffered head injuries while under the age of two. The children were followed over a ten year period. A total of 68% of the survivors were abnormal on follow up, 36% had severe difficulties, and 16% had moderate difficulties. However, deficits in children were often underestimated and impairments such as neurologic and cognitive deficits were not fully understood.
This study underscores the danger of head injuries in children. We simply don't understand the long term difficulties and deficits associated with head injuries in children. I certainly don't advocate keeping kids from playing sports. I absolutely believe that sports can teach kids about sportsmanship, themselves and others. Plus, of course, the physical activity is important. However, we must have the right attitude about head injuries and take them seriously because of our limited understanding of how young, developing brains are affected by head injuries.
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