Study Finds About 2.5 Percent Of Kids Have Had A Traumatic Brain Injury

The brain is a constant puzzle with doctors still working to understand how it responds to every day activity. Figuring out how the brain responds when it's been hurt is a whole different issue that doctors are still trying to understand. As doctors work to learn more, a new study has revealed that 2.5 percent of kids have had a traumatic brain injury, and here's what that means.

To the general public, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) remain an area of mystery. Essentially, it's what occurs when some violent blow or jolt to the head, or body, causes injury to the brain itself, as outlined by Medline Plus. TBIs can also occur when objects penetrate brain tissue, such as a bullet or shattered piece of skull, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The severity of a TBI can vary. The Mayo Clinic noted that mild TBIs may affect your brain cells temporarily, such as concussions. However, more serious injuries can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding, and other physical damage, according to the Mayo Clinic. These injuries can then result in long-term complications or even death.

As doctors work to understand the human brain, it also means they need to pay special attention to the developing brain of young children - and what happens when it's injured.

Discussions around TBIs in children have gained new momentum. Recently, the CDC issued new guidelines on how to treat kids with concussions. These guidelines are the first that the agency has ever established around the issue.

As youth sports, like football, continue to grow in popularity, acknowledging TBIs and the different impacts they have on children is increasingly important. But, in order to fully sort out how pressing the issue is, researchers needed to know just how many children this issue was affecting.

In a study published on Sept. 24 in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers set out to determine the national and state estimates of parent-reported, diagnosed traumatic brain injuries in children up to 17 years, as outlined by the study's abstract.

Researchers analyzed survey data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health, which the CDC defined as a cross-sectional telephone survey of U.S. households. As noted by MedPage, researchers did not look at medical records. Instead, they relied on parents reporting whether they'd even been told by a healthcare professional that their child had a TBI or concussion.

And, unlike previous estimates, MedPage noted that the study included TBIs treated in settings other than emergency departments. By examining this data, researchers were able to determine that "the lifetime prevalence among children <17 years was an estimated 2.5 percent", according to JAMA Pediatrics.

This study points to the need of healthcare professionals to continue being vigilant in assessing children with TBIs.

Steve Hicks, Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, who was not involved with the study, said, according to MedPage:

"Assessing symptom burden, cognition, and balance in the context of predisposing risk factors -- such as previous concussion, neurologic or psychiatric disorder, and family or social stressors -- can provide guidance for important return-to-play or return-to-learn decisions. Open communication with athletic trainers, teachers, and other professionals who are involved in children's daily activities will be critical for improving concussion recognition and management."

Interestingly, researchers were able to note a trend in which states had the most reported, and diagnosed, TBIs. By tracking this trend, researchers have proposed, according to JAMA Pediatrics, that "higher TBI prevalence in states with greater levels of private insurance and insurance adequacy may suggest an under recognition of TBI among children with less access to care."

As youth sports increase in popularity and doctors learn more about children's brains, it's necessary for healthcare professionals continue to update how they approach concussions. And, it's important for parents to continue to stay informed.