Motor vehicle accidents pose serious risks for pediatric traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is commonly sustained during motor vehicle accidents. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that road traffic mortality is particularly high in lower-income countries, where traffic safety and laws may be under-regulated. For example, in Southern Thailand, motor vehicle accidents are an increasingly common and dangerous cause of TBI in children, whose developing brains may be especially susceptible to injury.

A research team in Southern Thailand analyzed data from 948 children who sustained TBI. They collected medical records from Songklanakarind Hospital, including children under the age of 15 who were admitted for TBI between 2004 and 2015. They found that:

  • Nearly two-thirds of TBI injuries among children under age 15 were a result of motor vehicle accidents.
  • Almost half of the injuries were a result of motorcycle accidents specifically.
  • Although only 3% of the children died as a result of their injuries, half of those who did die were injured during a motorcycle accident.

In lower-income countries, unregulated traffic safety is often associated with an increased risk of accident-related TBI. Motorcycles are smaller and provide less protection than most motor vehicles, leaving passengers – especially children – at even higher risk of severe TBI, which is strongly associated with mortality and serious injury. In these cases, prevention is the more effective than medical intervention. Accordingly, all drivers are advised to travel with caution and are discouraged from allowing children to ride as passengers on motorcycles.

Tunthananip T & Phuenpathom N. Impact of road traffic injury to pediatric traumatic brain injury in Southern Thailand. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice. (December 2017).

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