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Brain injuries can affect cognitive development in children

Posted on in Catastrophic Injuries

Accidents that result in brain injuries can be debilitating for people of any age, but two new studies suggest they are especially harmful to the development of young children.

One of the studies compared 53 children who had suffered a traumatic brain injury before the age of 3 with 27 healthy children. In examining their social, intellectual and behavioral functions, researchers found that the children with early TBIs had impaired cognitive development and intellectual ability. They also found that the socioeconomic status of the children had a significant effect on their recovery. Although it's still unclear why, high parental stress and low parental involvement seem to negatively affect the development of a young child with TBI.

The other study focused on 40 children who had suffered a TBI between the ages of 2 and 7. Most of the injuries were from car or pedestrian accidents, and were more severe than those in the first study. The children were studied right after the accident, and again at 12 months, 30 months and 10 years later. As with the first study, the children with severe TBIs lagged behind their peers in intellectual, social and behavioral development even three years later. Both studies found that children who suffered milder brain injuries had no significant effects in their development.

These studies contradict what many medical professionals have believed for years: that young children are less vulnerable to the effects of traumatic brain injuries than older people. What's more, the severity of the injury and the follow-up care tend to be bigger factors than previously thought.

These findings point to the importance of getting the best care possible right after the injury happens. If a child suffers a brain injury in an accident caused by someone else's negligence, the resulting family stress or an inability to pay for necessary follow-up treatment shouldn't impede recovery.

Source: CNN Health, "Severe traumatic brain injury affects development in young children," Caitlin Hagan, Jan. 23, 2012

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