What Are the Long-Term Effects of a Head Injury to a Child?

Categories: Brain Injury

Young girl with injury on head lying on bed in hospital

The following blog article was updated in January 2022.

Unraveling the long-term effects of a child’s head injury, this article explores medical insights, developmental impacts, and legal avenues for support.

Any head injury as an adult is cause for concern, even seemingly minor ones. But what happens when that same injury happens to someone much younger? Understandably, parents want to know, What are the long-term effects of a head injury on their child?

Every case is different, but studies show that children who suffer head injuries can have lingering effects for months or even years.

To better understand the risks to your child after a head injury, speak with the Washington traumatic brain injury attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC.

Key Takeaways

  • Children may experience attention problems and social functioning deficits following a head injury.
  • The effects can be influenced by the child’s environment and the injury’s severity.
  • Pediatric brain injuries differ from adult ones due to ongoing brain development.
  • Brain injuries are a leading cause of death and disability in children.
  • Early diagnosis and specialized care are crucial for managing potential long-term effects.

Medical Research on Long-Term Effects of a Head Injury to a Child

According to physicians’ research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, there’s a chance that your child could suffer lingering effects of a traumatic brain injury for around seven years. They believe that children with mild to moderate injury are twice as likely to develop attention problems. Children with severe brain injuries could be five times more likely to develop secondary attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

In this study, the physicians found that a child’s environment following a head injury also influences whether they develop any attention problems. Research showed a direct link to parenting and the home environment. They found some children with more severe head injuries suffered fewer effects from their injuries when in an optimal environment than a child with mild injuries who lives in a chaotic or disadvantaged home. Parents need to respond quickly, as the long-term effects might be minimized when they practice effective parenting skills.

Skills that affect social functioning, such as inhibition, information processing speed, and reasoning, often show the greatest long-term effects. However, it’s important to note that researchers found many children do well long-term after a head injury, and most of them do not have “across the board deficits.”

Remember, you may not see the effects of a head injury for quite a while. It may not be until the brain needs to call on those affected skills. For example, children may not show signs of brain damage until they need to use abstract thinking. Unfortunately, some medical providers treat this incorrectly and do not realize that the underlying problem is a head injury from years ago. They may treat your child’s condition as though it’s a learning disability or emotional problem.

How Pediatric Brain Injuries Differ from Adult Injuries

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) notes that pediatric brain injuries are different from adult ones because a child’s brain is still developing. That means any potential disabilities may not be immediately noticeable. ASHA points to a pediatric brain injury as being a chronic disease process versus a one-time event. Symptoms may change as your child ages, and then the extent of the damage will begin to unfold.

A child’s brain is considered to be less “set” than an adult, which could offer some hope that deficits and damaged tissue can be bypassed by other parts of the brain that can take over. However, it may go the opposite direction too. A brain injury at a young age can prevent a child from retaining information and the building blocks for learning. Unfortunately, if the child is very young, they don’t have many building blocks. That puts them at a disadvantage when compared to others and could handicap their learning capabilities. That can lead to a child feeling discouraged and diminished because no one truly understands what is going on.

Statistics on Brain Injuries in Children

The Brain Injury Association of America notes that brain injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in children and adolescents. The two age groups most at risk for a brain injury are children ages 0 to 4 and ages 15 to 19.

Each year, around 62,000 people between the ages of 0 and 19 are hospitalized for brain injuries resulting from:

  • Motor vehicle accidents,
  • Sports injuries,
  • Falls,
  • Child abuse, and
  • Other accidents.

On average, emergency room departments see around 564,000 children who are then released. When looking at only children 0 to 14, there are approximately 2,685 deaths, 435,000 emergency room visits, and 37,000 hospitalizations per year.

Potential Symptoms to Watch for in Your Child

It’s crucial to diagnose a potential brain injury early on whenever possible. With children—especially younger ones— it’s hard to pinpoint symptoms as they are unable to tell you the problems and changes they are facing. Possible symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include:

  • Dazed appearance,
  • Balance problems and walking unsteadily,
  • Getting tired very easy and showing signs of listlessness,
  • Excessive crying,
  • Crankiness or being more irritable than usual,
  • Lack of interest in favorite things or toys, and
  • A change in their sleeping or eating patterns.

As time passes, there are other symptoms you should be watching out for, such as memory and concentration issues or personality changes. Some children may also develop a sensitivity to noise and light, or they may start suffering from depression or psychological adjustment problems.

How a Washington Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer Can Help

While we can’t prevent a traumatic brain injury from happening, we can do the next best thing by helping give your child the best chance at recovery. You need a lawyer who understands pediatric brain injuries and what to look for. If you have not started treating with a specialist, we can direct you to some suggested medical professionals who can help.

Your child may need specialized care and treatment in the future. If someone else’s negligence is responsible for your child’s injuries, it’s crucial to hold them accountable. You should not worry about the future or how you will handle developmental problems on your own should they arise.

Don’t leave your injured child’s future to chance. Let the skilled attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC assist you. We have decades of experience helping injured victims just like you and your family. We give every client the individualized attention they deserve, and we have a proven record of success in collecting compensation for our clients. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.

Author Photo

Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.