Gravity is a cruel mistress and being a child on this planet is far more dangerous than meets the eye. Also, we have the research that proves this.
A study published a few days ago in a prestigious peer-reviewed medical journal informs the public that children and teenagers are vulnerable to non-fatal traumatic brain injuries due to… gravity and childhood – and everything they imply.
Researchers gathered and surveyed data describing 4.1 million head injuries spanning from 2010 to 2013 (both included) in the United States and learned that over 70% of such cases had a connection to consumer products.
Ah, but what products?
They split the subjects into five age groups: <1 year, 1-4 years, 5-9 years, 10-14 years, 15-19 years, and tried to identify the consumer products more likely to cause brain injuries.
The data comes from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program – meaning that they studied only cases that arrived in emergency rooms.
They did not include data stemming from regular urgent care clinics, doctors’ offices, or school medical clinics.
As limitations go, the researchers didn’t study variables such as the locations of the registered injuries, the socioeconomic status of the patients, ethnicity, and a few other more variables that would have shed a better light on the issue.
Oh, and they…
Could not investigate the severity of these injuries.
According to the findings, floors are the main villain in this story, accounting for a whopping 6.4% of all non-fatal traumatic brain injuries across all age groups.
We feel the need to emphasize this:
The study is talking about children (although we know a few boys and girls who would vehemently protest against being called “kids” at 17+ years old) who suffered head bumps from floors.
Because, hey, gravity is a cruel mistress, just as the guys from Jackass have been teaching us (the hard way) for years.
Nothing new here, according to one of the lead researchers. Since kids spend a lot of time indoors – playing, we might add – they are prone to bumping into furnishings and fixtures, not to mention falling.
Among the main culprits, the study mentions home structures, furniture, and construction materials along the lines of floors (in the home or on playgrounds), prefabricates stairs, and beds.
The results are somewhat consistent with those published by the CDC in 2015, and we quote:
Injuries due to falls were the leading cause of nonfatal injury.
We are talking less (or at all) about the CDC reports because they don’t throw in words like “consumer products” but take gravity for granted.
Breakdown and Interpretation of the Results
Chairs are more dangerous than tables for the entire group. The study also discussed motor vehicle crashes, being struck by or against a moving or stationary object, and assault as brain-injury inducing factors, but somehow these did not make it to the top ten.
But let’s see how things stand in each age group, shall we?
In the 0-1 years old category, the most dangerous factor leading to some brain injuries (mild or moderate or something) is gravity, suggesting us that “some children fall from:”
- Beds: 25.4%
- Floors: 14.1%
- Sofas/couches: 7.4%
In the 1-4 years old category, the most critical factor leading to… is also gravity, suggesting us that “some children tend to fidget, roam around, and explore their environment:”
- Stairs: 9.9%
- Beds: 9.7%
- Floors: 9.7%
In the 5-9 years old category, the most dangerous… is a combination of childhood and gravity, suggesting us that “some children fidget, roam around, and are also allowed to explore outdoor environments:”
- Floors: 6.1%
- Bicycles: 5.2%
- Beds: 4.1%
In the 10-14 years old category, the plot thickens, as sports and recreation join gravitational forces and childhood:
- Football: 13.7%
- Basketball: 6.4%
- Bicycles: 5.4%
In the 14-19 years old category, they get to drive cars, get jobs, fall in love, and vote, but when it comes to brain injuries, these things can hardly match:
- Floors: 6.4%
- Beds: 6.1%
- Football: 5.7%
Childhood is Extremely Dangerous. We Should Regulate It
The same study also found that unspeakable acts of youth also lead to mild or moderate brain injuries. We are not talking about hunting Demogorgons around the neighborhood or standing up to clowns with severe behavioral issues, but using bicycles, for instance.
American football and basketball? Every American parent’s nightmare. Who would have ever thought that football players of any age should use helmets while on the field? It’s not like they haven’t been around before the 1900s.
Good thing American hockey is not much of a big deal; otherwise, we would have learned that the players should wear all types of head, elbows, and knees armor…
We don’t even want to begin discussing why teens 14 to 19 seem to fall and hit their heads against the floor or fall from their beds more often than children aged 5 to 9. We. Don’t. Even.
Something to Take Away from This
So dear parents, in case you crawled from under a rock last night and have no clue about safeguarding your infant and childproofing your home (until it’s time the kid goes to college and let the Ivy League worry about their floors for a change), this is what you need to do, according to the researchers:
- Make sure you even the surfaces out and even refurbish them to become non-slippery,
- Remove the rugs – but rugs actually may mitigate fall injuries, so we have mixed feeling about them,
- Install good lights,
- Install rails and guards on stairs and around beds and forget the study published in 2000 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that said that in between 1990 to 2000, there have been 36 rail beds incidents that caused 12 deaths in toddlers,
- Avoid hard surface playgrounds, although the same study found that toys, playgrounds and monkey bars account for an insignificant percent of total injuries because our kids do not actually play outside, climb trees, or have fun outdoors anymore. Why would they when smartphones and computers seem to be so… safe?
- (We also suggest you pad the entire house floor-to-ceiling, to make sure).
Do all of these before the little one gets the crazy idea of roaming around the room, tumble down the stairs, and start exploring the multiverse of madness that is the living room.
Jokes aside, this study’s main point goes beyond the fact that kids fall and teenagers play sports (and also fall). It serves – to a minimum – as a reminder that parents should childproof their homes when the children are young.
Also, be aware that “hard” sports like football and basketball require their attention and involvement, as well as a thorough supervision of schools’ regulations, coaches’ professional abilities, and teens’ safety on the field at all times.
It also urges authorities to take some measures, including the appropriate labeling of slippery flooring materials and even the upgrading of playground surfaces.
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