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Traumatic Brain Injury - Progressive Effect on a Child

Traumatic brain injury is extremely common in children as it is in adults. Traumatic brain injury in children up to age 14 results in nearly 3,000 deaths, over 37,000 hospitalizations and just under 500,000 emergency department visits. Traumatic brain injury in children has a progressive effect as the child's brain is still developing when it is injured.

Unlike adults, when a child suffers a traumatic brain injury it is more difficult to determine the measure of loss of the brain function in the child. In adults, there are prior school records, vocational records, and personality traits with which to measure the loss of brain function of the adult. In children, many of these pre-existing records do not exist and it is therefore difficult to measure the loss of brain function in the child. Previously it was thought that a child with a brain injury would recover better than an adult because their developing brain would get better over time. However, the evidence is exactly the opposite and a child with a brain injury not only may not recover as well as an adult but would progressively worsen.

A child is not a small adult. An adult's brain is fully developed and a child's brain is continuing to develop. The development of the frontal lobe of a child continues until around the age of 16 years. Frontal lobe brain injuries cause disruption in the executive functions of the brain greatly effecting concentration, memory and social behavior.

Because the child is not involved in many complex activities the cognitive impairments of the child may not be immediately obvious after the injury but may become apparent as the child gets older and faces more complex activities.

A child with a brain injury faces difficulties in processing information, impaired judgment and reasoning. As stated, these deficits may not be readily apparent.

The child with a traumatic brain injury not only suffers deficits that are not readily apparent, but will suffer what amounts to progressive symptoms from the brain injury. This is because the brain of a child is not fully developed and continues to develop and as the child with the traumatic brain injury faces increased cognitive and social expectations, the child with the brain injury will not learn them as well as the child without the brain injury. This will cause further cognitive problems, further emotional problems, and progressive learning disabilities. The progressive effect of the traumatic brain injury in a child causes the developing brain not to be able to learn more complex activities and social interactions as well causing further disabilities.

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