Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury in Kids

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury (1).

Brain injury is the most frequent cause of disability and death among children in the U.S. More than one million children sustain head injuries annually (1).

In Utah, 203 children ages 0-4 received a TBI in 2011 (rate of 7.8 per 10,000). Most TBIs were due to a fall, recreational activity, or assault. An estimated 1,583 or 1.4% of children with special health care needs in Utah have a head injury, concussion, or TBI with the largest percentage among children ages 0-5 years (2).

Children who sustain a TBI may experience a complex array of problems including cognitive and physical impairments, communication delays, and psychosocial and behavioral problems. These impairments can be temporary or and may cause partial or total functional disability as well as psychosocial maladjustment (1). The nature of the injury and its associated problems can range from mild to severe, making the course of recovery difficult. However with early detection and ongoing therapy and intervention, the severity of symptoms may decrease.

Signs and Symptoms of a TBI

Some signs of a TBI may include:

  • Headache or neck pain that won’t go away
  • Blurred vision
  • Lack of energy/tired
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of balance
  • “Hurt” by loud noises or bright lights

Some changes in behavior from a TBI may include:

  • Easily irritated; aggressive
  • Mood changes: feeling sad, anxious
  • Not interested in things that used to be enjoyed
  • Confused, get lost easily
  • Slow in thinking, speaking, or reading
  • Hard time getting organized
  • Hard time making decisions and solving problems
  • Hard time paying attention
  • Forgetting things that happened a few minutes or days ago


  1. CDC Traumatic Brain Injury
  2. National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs