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According to the National Institutes of Health, “traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability in children.” Unlike adults, children can suffer a brain injury even before they are born. The long-term consequences of that injury can be life-altering.

Research shows that children exhibit different responses to brain injuries compared to adults. These differences are directly attributed to age-related structural changes in the body, as well as the difficulty in truly evaluating pediatric patients.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury is any injury to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. For an unborn baby or newborn, even a small loss of blood volume could cause a brain bleed with disastrous long-term consequences.

Because infants, newborns, and toddlers are unable to express themselves fully, a brain injury can go undetected for a significant length of time, resulting in permanent damage. An estimated 475,000 children between the ages of 0-14 years of age suffer a traumatic brain injury every single year. Sadly, 2,685 children die each year because of their injuries.

While advancements in diagnostic imaging have improved the quality of pediatric care children receive, it is important for all parents, caregivers, and family members to learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a brain injury quickly.

Signs and Symptoms of a Brain Injury in Children

When a child suffers a brain injury, it may not initially be apparent. Children exhibit brain injury symptoms differently than adults. Since they don’t have the best motor skills or language skills, it can be difficult to tell when a child has suffered a brain injury.

For example, the sensory systems and frontal lobes of the brain do not fully develop until late adolescence. Therefore, children with TBI may not initially show immediate effects. However, as their brain develops, the full extent of the damage may be revealed, as they suffer academic challenges later in development.

It is important to know that signs and symptoms of a brain injury may also occur alongside existing developmental conditions, such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and learning disabilities. This can make it even more difficult to recognize the full extent of a pediatric brain injury.

In general, however, parents and caregivers should recognize some of the signs and symptoms of pediatric traumatic brain injury. Those include, but are not limited to:

  • Changes in bowel and bladder function
  • Changes in level of consciousness, ranging from brief loss of consciousness to coma
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Impaired movement, balance, and/or coordination
  • Motor speed and programing deficits (dyspraxia/apraxia)
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Reduced muscle strength (paresis/paralysis)
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Hearing, visual, or other sensory changes
  • Attention issues or difficulties
  • Language difficulties or changes
  • Agitation, aggression, and/or combativeness
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy and/or lack of motivation
  • Changes in affect—overemotional, over reactive, emotionless (flat affect)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (e.g., insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Depression

Common Causes of Brain Injuries in Children

Of all the types of traumatic injuries, brain injuries are the most likely to result in permanent impairment and disability in children. The main causes of brain injuries in children depend largely on the age of the child at the time of the injury.

Causes of pediatric TBI vary by age, but between 0 and 14, the most common causes of brain injuries are:

  • Falls (50.2%)
  • Struck by/against events (24.8%)
  • Motor vehicle accidents (6.8%)
  • Assault (2.9%)
  • Unknown/other (15.3%)


Infants can also suffer brain injury from viruses, as well as oxygen deprivation. However, they can also suffer serious and irreparable brain damage from being shaken. Shaken baby syndrome causes bleeding and swelling in the brain and results in significant impairment, long-term brain damage, and death.


Toddlers are still developing critical motor skills, and they often begin to take serious risks. If they’re not properly supervised or restrained, they can suffer brain injuries in a variety of ways. Falling is the most common cause of traumatic brain injury to toddlers. In addition, toddlers may fall into swimming pools, choke on toys or objects, or become trapped inside vehicles. These events can all result in a lack of oxygen for a significant amount of time. Even if they are resuscitated, the lack of oxygen may have caused serious long-term brain damage.

School Age Children

School age boys are more likely to suffer a brain injury than girls. That’s because many boys at this age take extra risks during playtime or they become involved in risky or high contact sports, such as skateboarding, football, or BMX racing. These sports and activities can result in significant blows to the head and subsequent brain injuries.


Teenagers don’t always make the best decisions, and sometimes those decisions can result in serious brain injuries. Drinking and driving, alcohol or substance abuse, fighting, and distracted driving are just some of the ways a teenager can suffer a serious brain injury.

Contact Our Virginia Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers Today

If your child has suffered a brain injury, it is important to understand the severity of the injury and how it could adversely affect your child’s entire future. At Bergeron Law, we know that a traumatic brain injury can derail your child’s life and result in serious and long-term impairment. That’s why we work tirelessly for all our injured clients and their families. Attorney Steve Bergeron is a powerful legal advocate for injured children and their families. Call Steve today at (703) 813-6460 or fill out the confidential contact form for a free initial consultation and review of your case.