Long term effects of traumatic brain injury in children

Children are known to recover from many problems, including injuries and illnesses, and still lead healthy lives into the future. However, this is not always the case for victims of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).  Studies have linked even the slightest head traumas to the onset of serious issues instantly or in later years.

For instance, children who suffer traumatic brain injuries are said to suffer high-risk psychiatric problems. Severe traumatic brain injuries may result in head bruising, bleeding, and torn tissues, among other physical damages to the brain. The effects of sustaining such injuries include endurance of long-term complications, including death.

Main causes of TBI in children

TBI mainly occurs as a result of a blow to the head, or a traumatic injury mainly to the head or other parts of the body which will trigger an impact to the brain. The severity of the TBI may depend on a raft of factors, including the force of the impact or the nature of the injury. TBI in children may emanate from:

  • Falls- any type of fall, such as falling from the bed, a bicycle, rolling down the stairs, or dropping from a tree may lead to a traumatic brain injury. The intensity may increase if the falls occur more than once.
  • Violence- some forms of domestic violence like battering or hitting may lead to TBI in children. An example of this is the shaken baby syndrome which occurs due to intense baby shaking by a violent caretaker.
  • Explosive blasts- strong sounds coming from a gunshot or a bomb blast nearby may cause TBI. The outcomes of a blast including being hit by debris, which might also cause TBI.
  • Sporting activities- Sporting activities that involve hard contacts such as boxing, football, skating, or soccer might also be sources of TBI.
  • Accidental coalitions- a child involved in a car, motorbike, or bicycle crash may suffer TBI.

Common effects


A child who suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury might suffer seizures in their adult life. Some TBI might involve skull fractures, which may penetrate to the protective layers covering the brain (meninges). This will expose the brain to bacterial infections. Eventually, the child might suffer from meningitis soon after or later in life.

Intellectual problems

A child who experienced a major TBI might start showing intellectual problems in their developmental stages. Eminent intellectual problems may include:

Cognitive inadequacies

Children who had experienced an impactful head trauma, which touched their brains, are likely to sustain cognitive difficulties, which may include:

  • Memory problems, characterized by difficulties recalling events that happened a few days ago or remembering a concept previously taught in class.
  • Learning difficulties entails difficulties internalizing or understanding simple concepts
  • Poor reasoning, which entails poor judgment of issues
  • Attention deficits, whereby a child experiences concentration problems
  • Low/poor academic achievements

Executive functioning issues

Children who undergo traumatic brain injuries are susceptible to executive functioning problems, in the forms of:

  • Inabilities to multitask- they have inabilities of carrying out more than one thing at a time.
  • Problem-solving- they are poor in ending issues with rational solutions
  • They are mostly inadequate organizational, planning and decision-making skills
  • They experience difficulties beginning and/or completing tasks

Communication problems

Communication problems are common among children who experienced a traumatic brain injury at some point in their lives. These problems may occur in the forms of speech difficulties, like slurred speeches, difficulties in developing language skills, such as speaking and/or writing, problems organizing ideas or thoughts and difficulties participating or following discussions or any conversations, especially those that involve turn-taking. These problems may cause misunderstandings, conflicts or frustrations with friends, coworkers and with family members who may not know or understand the person.

Visual problems- as the trauma continues to take effect, the child might experience visual problems, characterized by blurry vision or being excessively sensitive to light.

Behavioral challenges

Children who have experienced a traumatic brain injury in the course of their lives might experience behavioral challenges, which may include:

  • Poor self-control- they might possess poor self-control
  • Irritability (ease to anger) and challenges socializing
  • Poor reaction to agitation, and are likely to engage in aggressive outburst.

Mental health problems

TBI is one of the most essential triggers and exacerbated psychiatric issues. Children who experienced TBI might suffer distinct mental health issues, such as depression and sometimes hypertonia. The majority of TBI victims are likely to end up dependent on welfare programs and disability functions due to their vulnerable states.


TBI might be diagnosed using the Glasgow Coma Scale, performing imaging tests or intracranial pressure monitor. These methods are useful in determining whether the brain is indeed injured, the exact location of injury, and severity of the injury.

Treatment and prevention

TBI may be treated using various methods, including:


Medications are critical in preventing secondary brain damage immediately after the doctor detects a TBI. Commonly used medications include:

  • Anti-seizure drugs- these are used to reduce seizures and the effects of the seizures in victims of mild or severe TBIs. The drugs are given during the first week and only continued in the occurrence of the seizures.
  • Diuretics-these drugs aid in reducing fluid in brain tissues, as well as reducing pressure in the brain.
  • Coma-inducing drugs– these drugs help the patient go into temporary comma, to allow the brain to heal without pressure
  • Pain relievers-pain killers are helpful for patients with mild TBI. This coupled with resting aid the recovery process.


Surgery may be done to remove clots, repair fractured skulls and prevent brain infection, reduce bleeding in the brain or open a window to release brain pressure.


Treatment may be followed by rehabilitative exercises, like speech and language therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapist, etc.

Prevention strategies

Parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers and other adults entrusted with child care should make it their responsibility to prevent TBI in children, mainly through:

  • Seat belts and airbags – children should always be kept safe by fastening them in seatbelts when traveling.
  • Helmets – always ensure that your child wears a helmet when riding a bicycle, skateboard or other sports where the risk of falling is high.
  • Drive safely – avoid driving while intoxicated or when using your phone.
  • Safe floors – ensure slippery floors are labeled with precaution signs. Always ensure that floors are kept dry.
  • Lighting – ensure the rooms are well lit

Last Updated on September 19, 2021