The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Injuries

Young children are often prone to accidents, for a variety of reasons. They might be a little clumsy as a result of their quickly-growing bodies, they might be daredevils, or they may simply not understand the risk of danger as well as adults. Children can also experience injuries in car accidents or due to another’s negligent actions, like a daycare worker or on dangerous property.

Regardless of how they sustained their injury, studies show that physical trauma experienced as a child can affect an individual for years – sometimes well into adulthood. And, these challenges can extend to the injured child’s family as well, demonstrating the need for more holistic and long-term support after a traumatic injury.

Before we get into the data, let’s discuss some of the most common accidents and injuries experienced by children. The experts at HealthPartners list seven of the top injuries they see in the emergency room:

  1. Falls, which can happen on stairs, playgrounds, windows, beds, and many other places. Any child can experience a fall, but babies and toddlers are especially at risk for head, neck, and spine injuries.
  2. Accidental impacts, or being struck by or against an object. For older children, this can happen while playing sports, like being hit by another player. However, accidental impact injuries can also occur if a child is pinned under a piece of tipped-over furniture or hit by a heavy object.
  3. Car accidents, which are the second-highest leading cause of death for US teens. Per the CDC, “In 2019, almost 2,400 teens in the United States aged 13–19 were killed and about 258,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes.”
  4. Cuts and puncture wounds, which can quickly turn serious if not properly treated. Lacerations with heavy bleeding, located on the face or near the eyes, caused by a dirty object, caused by an animal or human, or showing signs of infection need immediate medical attention.
  5. Animal bites, both pets and wildlife. Dog bites that are longer than a half-inch or from a wild or strange dog require emergency medical attention. The same goes for venomous snakes and spiders, as well as bats. Any bite on the face or one that’s bleeding heavily should also get medical care.
  6. Foreign bodies, which is a fancy way of saying your child put something somewhere it shouldn’t be. Whether they stick something up their nose, in their ear, or down their throat, many children visit the ER after ingesting a foreign body. Parents should be aware of choking hazards or objects that can lodge in a child’s throat or gastrointestinal tract.
  7. Burns, per HealthPartners: “Whether a curious hand grabs for a hot pan or repeated sunscreen applications didn’t get the job done, mild burns are pretty common for kids. But only a little amount of time – sometimes just seconds – is needed for burn injuries to worsen.” Children of all ages can suffer chemical burns, thermal burns, friction burns, or frostbite.

Now, on to the research.

A 2020 study published in the National Library of Medicine took a look at how a traumatic injury affects a child – and their families – months after the incident. The researchers studied the effects of severe injuries to children, specifically to the head, chest, abdomen, spine, limbs or multiple body parts. The goal of the study was to explore the “emotional, social, practical and physical impacts of children’s injuries.”

What they found was that even when a child has technically healed from their injuries, the aftermath can last for months, or even years, and can affect both the child and their entire family. Researchers point out the need for post-injury support:

Injured children struggled with changes to their appearance, physical activity restrictions and late onset physical symptoms, which developed after hospital discharge when activity levels increased. Social participation was affected by activity restrictions, concerns about their appearance and interruptions to friendships. Psychological impacts, particularly post-traumatic stress type symptoms often affected both children and parents. Parents’ responsibilities suddenly increased, which affected family relationships and roles, their ability to work and carry out daily tasks. Rapid hospital discharge was wanted, but participants often felt vulnerable on return home.

Another study, published in BMC Pediatrics in 2021, discussed the impact of childhood injury on academic performance later in life. Researchers found that young people who sustained an injury performed worse academically, and their performance decreased in response to the severity of the injury. Their data also pointed to the need for more post-injury support:

Injured young people are demonstrating poorer performance on school assessments, with increasing injury severity having a greater negative impact, compared to their matched counterparts. Injured young people also had almost twice the risk of not completing high school compared to their matched peers. The identification of characteristics of young people most likely to encounter problems in the academic environment after sustaining an injury is important to facilitate the identification of learning support needs. Assessing learning needs and monitoring return-to-school progress post-injury may aid identification of any ongoing support requirements and unmet needs.

If your child is injured in a preventable accident, it’s important you work with an experienced injury attorney to learn your rights to compensation. As you can see, the effects of an injury on a child can be long-lasting and profound, and your attorney can work with experts to determine your child’s long-term needs.

Reach out to the South Carolina attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC today. We can help make things right and hold the at-fault parties accountable. To schedule a free consultation with a member of our team, call our offices or fill out our contact form today.