Traumatic brain injuries among children and teens in the United States are most often associated with everyday consumer products and activities, such as home furnishings and fixtures or sports, according to a new study.
About 72% of traumatic brain injury-related emergency department visits among children are attributable to consumer products, found the study published in the journal Brain Injury on Monday, July 29.
The study found that the top 10 leading products contributing to non-fatal traumatic brain injuries in children younger than a year to 19 years old are:
- ceilings and walls
Traumatic brain injury or TBI occurs when a sudden trauma—such as a bump, blow or jolt—causes damage to the brain.
The new study involved national estimates of approximately 4.1 million non-fatal traumatic brain injuries in children and adolescents in the United States between 2010 and 2013. The data came from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program.
The data showed that the most common product groups related to TBIs in children were related to sports and recreation, which was linked to 28.8% of injuries; home furnishings and fixtures, tied to 17.2% of injuries; home structures and construction materials, tied to 17.1% of injuries; child nursery equipment, tied to 2.7% of injuries, and toys, tied to 2.4%, among other products.
“Uneven flooring and prefabricated stairs often contribute to falls. Slipping, tripping and falling are very common. Some falls can cause serious head injuries,” said Bina Ali, a research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland, who was the first author of the study.
Traumatic brain injuries from home furnishings and fixtures, primarily beds, were highest among infants and children up to 4 years old. Whereas traumatic brain injuries from sports and recreation—especially football, bicycles, and basketball—were highest among children ages 5 to 19.
“The findings were not very surprising. Infants and younger children are often indoors, so we see that the leading causes of their head injuries are home furnishings and fixtures,” Ali said.
“One interesting finding was that car seats is the fifth leading cause of traumatic head injuries in infants,” she said. “Car seats are effective in preventing injuries in infants when used properly in cars. However, sometimes car seats are used outside of the car as baby carriers. When they are handled inappropriately, they can pose a risk.”
For instance, she said, a car seat could be placed on a table or countertop where there is a risk of falling and injuring the infant.
The new study had some limitations, including that the severity of these injuries were not investigated and the data included only patients admitted to emergency departments.
The researchers recommended strategies to prevent TBI in children around the home, including removing tripping hazards such as area rugs; improving lighting; avoiding hard surface playgrounds; increasing use of home safety devices such as stair gates; and using stairway handrails without sharp edges, among other strategies.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of guidelines last year for the diagnosis, treatment and long-term care of children and teens with traumatic brain injuries.
The guidelines include asking health care providers to avoid routinely conducting imaging tests on children who have mild TBIs, using age-appropriate symptom scales to diagnose concussions, assessing risk factors that would signal a prolonged recovery, providing kids and their parents with instructions on how to return to activities based on their symptoms, and counseling children to gradually return to non-sports activities after no more than two or three days of rest.