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Preventing Childhood Head Injuries
Some of childhood’s fondest memories of freedom and independence revolve around biking, skating and skateboarding. But when your child takes a tumble on one of these wheeled modes of transportation, road rash is the least of your worries. In fact, even if your child is wearing a properly fitted helmet, there is no guarantee that it will prevent him from sustaining a head injury.
While most childhood head injuries are external or superficial in nature, internal head injuries (those that may involve the blood vessels, skull or brain and result in bleeding or bruising of the brain) are still a very real risk.
THE REALITY OF CHILDHOOD HEAD INJURIES
According to Safe Kids USA, wheeled sports like bicycling, skateboarding and inline skating account for nearly 50 percent of all head injuries in children, including football and soccer.
That means that, even though Minnesota state law does not require helmets on bicycles or other wheeled activities for children, it’s still extremely important for parents to require that they be worn, without exception. Be prepared for the fact that kids will and often do complain about the look or feel of a helmet, stating they’re uncomfortable, hot or “stupid-looking.” It’s important to have your answers ready for these common complaints that children use when trying to get out of wearing a helmet.
YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN
The brain is one of the most important parts of the human body, controlling and regulating breathing, heart rate, reasoning, bodily functions and movement, judgment, and interpretations of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Your child’s developing brain is in a near constant state of growth and evolution of function as he or she learns and changes.
A severe blow to the head could result in “traumatic brain injury” for your child, causing temporary or long-term damage. Sometimes this damage is immediately apparent, whereas other times it takes years to see the extent of brain injury on a developing brain.
Recent studies have even linked early brain injury in children with criminal activity later in life. According to the University of Exeter, “Acquired brain injuries can lead maturing brains to ‘misfire,’ interrupting the development of temperance (ability to restrain and moderate actions), social judgment and the ability to control impulses. If undetected, these injuries, which may be the result of falls, sporting injuries, car accidents or fights, can leave young people untreated and increase their risk of offending.”
Children under the age of 18 should wear the appropriate helmet and safety gear for any kind of wheeled activity, such as:
Riding a scooter
Rollerskating or rollerblading
Common Types of Head Injuries
With four main categories of skull fracture, a physician should check your child carefully if you suspect a head injury.
Simple fracture: bone is broken but surrounding skin is unharmed.
Linear fracture: break in the bone but no splintering or distortion of the bone.
Depressed fracture: bone is pushed in toward the brain.
Compound fracture: skin is punctured, cranial bone is splintered.
See our piece on Biking and Concussions: Recognize the Symptoms.
This injury is characterized by bruising on the brain as a result of violent collision between the brain and skull. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, and loss of consciousness, as well as loss of balance, nausea and vomiting.
LACERATION AND NOSE BREAKS
Lacerations or cuts to the face and head and broken noses are common to those involved in accidents involving head trauma of some sort, and can cause severe bleeding and swelling due to the many concentrated blood vessels housed in this area.
Besides ensuring your child’s safety with the use of the proper helmet and safety gear, be sure that your children have been well instructed in the use of these wheeled sports, and that they understand the risks involved, and take the necessary precautions to prevent serious injury.
If your child suffers a head injury or trauma, it’s imperative that you seek medical attention immediately. Even injuries that may seem relatively minor at the outset could result in devastating long-term affects, if left untreated.
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