10 leading causes of traumatic brain injuries in children

See what football can do to a child's brain after just one season

Every year, thousands of American children either die or become severely disabled due to traumatic brain injury, according to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new study recently published in the journal Brain Injury points out that 72% of TBI-related emergency department visits among children and adolescents are attributable to specific consumer products and activities.

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Using 2010-2013 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program, researchers found that between those years, children aged 1-19 years accounted for 4.1 million nonfatal TBI-related emergency department visits.

TBIs from furnishings, fixtures and beds were most common among infants and young children, followed by bicycles and football for kids aged 5-9 years and among adolescents. Car seats were particularly dangerous among infants, particularly when used as baby carriers or handled inappropriately.

Uneven flooring and prefabricated stairs can contribute to falls, too.

These are the 10 leading products or activities contributing to nonfatal TBIs in children up to 19 years of age:

  1. floors
  2. beds
  3. football
  4. stairs
  5. bicycles
  6. basketball
  7. ceilings and walls
  8. chairs
  9. soccer
  10. tables

While most TBIs were found to be unintentional, about 6% of injuries were due to assault, with teens aged 15-19 years experiencing the highest rate of assault-related TBIs.

How to prevent TBIs in and around the home, according to the study:

  • Remove tripping hazards like area rugs.
  • Improve lighting.
  • Avoid hard surface playgrounds.
  • Increase use of home safety devices such as stair gates and guardrails.
  • Avoid prefabricated stairs.
  • Take part in and encourage caregiver, youth and teacher education.
  • Enforce game and playground safety rules, including use of proper safety gear.

Health care providers are also urged to conduct routine imaging tests on children with mild TBIs.

Study limitations

Researchers pointed out various limitations of the study, including an inability to distinguish how TBIs in children and adolescents vary by socioeconomic status. Previous research suggests those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more like to experience TBI. Additionally, researchers did not examine the severity of the TBI injuries — and data included only patients admitted to emergency departments.

About TBIs

According to the CDC, a TBI is usually caused by "a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain." But not all blows result in TBI, and the severity varies. Some may be considered mild (short change in consciousness or mental state), whereas others may involve an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia. The latter TBIs is considered severe.