Preventing Brain Injury in Children

2016-0215 buckle up

Among U.S. adolescents, the three major causes of brain trauma are automobile accidents, assaults, and sports-related injuries.

Based on a previous study of pediatric brain trauma that studied children’s medical histories at 25 sites in the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN), the findings send a clear safety message to parents and caregivers alike, said Children’s Hospital of Michigan Division Chief and Research Director of Emergency Medicine Prashant V. Mahajan, M.D., one of the authors.

“We studied a very large cohort of patients in our secondary analysis of this previously collected data,” said Dr. Mahajan, professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, “and the good news for all of us is that they demonstrate clearly the importance of prevention in protecting children from brain trauma. The bottom line on this prospective study of more than 43,000 pediatric brain injuries is that it identifies falls – often from bicycles – as the major cause of trauma in children under age 12. Knowing that, we’re now better able to help educate parents and policymakers alike about the great value of safety helmets for this population of kids.”

Dr. Mahajan said the data on adolescent brain trauma similarly underlines the vital importance of providing sports safety equipment and automobile seatbelts for teenagers.

“Once again, the implications of this very large study are crystal clear,” said Dr. Mahajan, who has spent the past 18 years treating injured tots and teenagers at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, part of the Detroit Medical Center. “Our study really emphasizes the importance for pediatricians of educating parents as a key strategy for reducing the severity of such brain injuries among children everywhere.”

“On several occasions,” he added, “I’ve treated injured children who had been protected by safety equipment and also injured children who have not been protected, during the same eight-hour shift in the emergency room. In most cases, the children who had benefited from wearing the helmets or seatbelts sustained less severe injuries.

“That’s the lifesaving message contained in this study – and it’s the message I want to convey to parents and pediatricians everywhere, as a doctor who cares passionately about preventing fatal or disabling brain trauma in children.”

My Opinion

Although I earned several post-graduate certificates in quality, I do not consider myself to be an expert in seat belt or helmet quality. I am not an engineer, medical researcher, or statistician. However, I do have any opinion about the evidence used to support the conclusion. While it may be true that seat belts and helmets make their users safer, I think there is a more important factor not mentioned in the article – when parents insist their children use seat belts and helmets, their children are less likely to sustain as serious an injury than the children of parents who do not insist their children use seat belts and helmets. In other words, the children of parents who are concerned about risk, are less likely to sustain a severe injury than the children of parents who are less concerned about risk.

I am not suggesting that neither seat belts nor helmets work. In fact, I believe the exact opposite. I am just questioning whether or not there are less obvious factors we should also consider.


Thanks to Medical XPress for sharing the articleNew England Journal of Medicine for publishing the study; all the researchers who analyzed the data and reported their findings; Google for helping me find the article; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text in this post.

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