Written by By Annie Reuter, CNN
PTSD, a disorder that can last a lifetime, is often experienced by adolescents, who have just started puberty. However, each year thousands of teens turn to pediatricians seeking help for a traumatic condition that rarely requires medical care: traumatic head injury. And according to a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is a condition that continues to increase over time.
The report, released Wednesday and titled “Wider Scope of Traumatic Head Injury in Young Adolescents,” reports that from 2012 to 2015, there was a 32% increase in reports of traumatic head injury to physicians working with kids ages 2 to 17. The study looked at nearly 75,000 kids between 5 and 17, from 2014 to 2016, and the findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.
“There’s a significant gap between what we know about the physical signs and symptoms of traumatic head injury in young people and what parents and pediatricians are aware of,” lead author Stephanie Simmons said in a statement.
The “technically there’s a lot we don’t know about what causes TBI, why some children and some teens come back better than others, and other kids may not be able to recover at all,” said Simmons, a psychology professor at the Ohio State University who is also a child psychiatrist.
“As a pediatrician who has had to assess this every day, I see every day, kids who are very shaken up and who have heightened signs of PTSD, and I try my best to find the best avenues for intervention.”
A battle of fumbles
The report reports that 19% of the victims of traumatic head injury in the latest period had a prior history of a concussion, an injury that, when severe enough, can trigger symptoms of PTSD and depression.
The report offers a detailed breakdown of the types of injuries suffered by kids between the age of 5 and 17, and they range from simple scrapes and bruises, to traumatic head trauma — including concussions and a variety of minor brain injury and bleeding, including those that could be caused by car accidents, sports, falls or even self-inflicted trauma.
More than half of the injuries, the report says, were blamed on motor vehicle accidents. Other common causes of traumatic head injuries were traffic accidents, fall injuries and assault, like punches and fights. Other common causes of head injuries can include sports or recreational activities, medical events, or severe weather events.
The report notes that over time, trauma increases anxiety among teenagers and young adults, making it difficult for them to concentrate at school or to get along with others. It’s also linked to depression, sleep issues and decreased quality of life and growth.
“Recovering from traumatic head injury is a long and sometimes difficult process, but the majority of injured children can recover and have a quality of life that exceeds their parents’ and pediatricians’ expectations,” Simmons said.
By a stroke
However, the need for counseling is not well known to parents and pediatricians. The report notes that a quarter of pediatricians in the United States report they have had trouble educating their patients and parents of children about traumatic head injury.
Another third reported either that they, their patients or their children had trouble educating each other on the issue.
“The potential for pediatricians to really be advocates and advocates for their patients is really significant,” Simmons said.