When 12-year-old Ryan left home to play golf with his friends on a sunny afternoon, his parents assumed the outing was just a step toward adolescent independence — the first of many “all-boys” afternoons on the links.
Who knew that a shift in the weather would abruptly alter the course of Ryan’s childhood? As he stood on the putting green of the 8th hole, the last remnants of Hurricane Ike swept through Cincinnati in a sudden, violent windstorm. Just seconds after Ryan waved to a fellow golfer, a strong gust ripped a large branch off a tree and whipped it across Ryan’s head, shattering his skull. He was in a coma for nine days.
Five years later, he is surpassing doctors’ expectations — he’s getting As in school, he’s on his high school golf team (with the help of a leg stabilizer and hard work at PT), and he is maintaining an amazingly upbeat attitude in the face of his injury-related challenges. Ryan’s parents acknowledge the physical and cognitive effects of his brain injury, but they refuse to let those challenges impose limits on what they believe he can achieve. This optimistic attitude helps Ryan keep striving.
Ryan was one of the 1.7 million people who sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. In fact, children aged 0 to 4 years and older adolescents aged 15 to 19 years are among the groups most likely to sustain a TBI. And because children’s brains are still developing, the toll of a brain injury on a child can sometimes be more dire than on an adult.
In addition to educating themselves on how to prevent a concussion, parents should know these basic facts:
Children with a brain injury can have the same symptoms as adults, but it’s often harder for them to share how they feel. Call your child's doctor if he or she has had a blow to the head and you notice any of these symptoms:
Sometimes problems from a brain injury can be similar to those related to a learning disability, so getting an accurate diagnosis can all the difference. Problems at school that result from a TBI can include attention and concentration, planning and organization, and social interaction among others.
Our content about children and TBI provides information about children, ages birth through 22 years, who are affected by traumatic brain injury. Children with special needs in this age range may be eligible to receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal special education law.
Remember that children do best when parents, educators, and health professionals communicate, develop common goals, and work together. But most importantly, parents play the most essential role in their child’s recovery.
Dr. Robert Cantu explains why the brains of children are more vulnerable to concussion — from nerve fibers in the brain that are more easily torn apart to the size discrepancy between their large skulls and little necks.
Dr. Ann Glang talks about how school teachers and staff in collaboration with parents can help a child with TBI have a fulfilling and successful experience during school and beyond.
BrainLine Kids is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education Award# H133B090010.