Monday, May 5th, 2014
A new study published in the journal BMJ is calling into question the conventional wisdom that molded plastic helmets can help babies who have deformational plagiocephaly, or flat heads caused by sleeping on their backs or a neck condition called torticollis. More from WBUR.org, Boston’s NPR station:
The paper is small but it’s the first randomized, controlled study — the gold standard in medical research — of helmets for plagiocephaly in babies. And it found that, at least in 84 babies without other risk factors, the helmets don’t help. The babies tended to improve with or without helmets. From the press release:
“There was no meaningful difference in skull shape at the age of two years between children treated with therapy helmet and those who received no active treatment. Both groups showed similar improvements although only a quarter made a full recovery to a normal head shape, according to the team of researchers based in The Netherlands.”
The results are especially underwhelming when you consider that the helmets, made of firm foam in a hard plastic shell, can cost as much as several thousand dollars, even in Great Britain, where the national health system doesn’t tend to pay for them.
The findings can also seem a bit daunting when you consider that once the flat-headedness developed in babies, only about a quarter of them fully “normalized,” helmet or not.
Dr. Carolyn Rogers-Vizena, a craniofacial surgeon in the department of plastic and oral surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, emphasizes this point: By no means should concerns about head flatness dissuade parents from putting babies to sleep on their backs, which is known to protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Back-sleeping alone should not be blamed, she added; babies who develop flat heads usually have other risk factors that lessen mobility, including neck tightness, prematurity or developmental delays.
Also, the study offers useful new knowledge but it’s only one small study, she said, “it’s certainly not the be-all and end-all.”
Image: Girl wearing a helmet, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Concussions in youth sports are on the rise, and a new report from the Institute of Medicine urges parents of girls to pay special attention, citing a “culture of resistance” that has kept public education efforts from having widespread effect. More from NBC News:
Despite widespread coverage, damage from concussions is underestimated and blows to the head suffered by young athletes often go unreported, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine released on Wednesday. In addition, football helmets fail to protect against concussions, the report found, although the committee, a group of pediatricians, educators, psychiatrists and engineers, recommended protective gear to prevent other injuries.
The number of athletes aged 19 and younger who were treated for concussions and other sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries rose from 150,000 in 2001 to a quarter million in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. In college athletics, the rate of concussions in more than a dozen sports doubled between the school year that ended in 1989 and the one that ended in 2004.
The committee also found that young women and girls have a higher rate of concussions than boys in the sports they play, including soccer and basketball. And although the rate of concussions in cheerleading remain low compared to other sports, for example, the rate of concussions in the sport increased at a rate of 26 percent each year from 1998 to 2008. That marks a greater rate of increase than for any other sport played by young women at the high school and college levels.
While improved diagnosis may account for at least some of the higher concussion rates “there is probably also a difference in the competitiveness in children and their sports,” said committee member Mayumi Prins, an associate professor in neurosurgery at the UCLA. “Children are being trained earlier in sports and they’re focusing on a single sport rather than diversifying. In the female population we do see that the way girls play sports has changed in the last 10 years — they’re more aggressive.”
Without early diagnosis and proper treatment, teens and young kids are at greater risk of repeated concussions and potential long-term damage. One major factor keeping kids from getting treatment: many think it’s their duty to keep mum about their symptoms,and get back in the game.
Image: Girl playing soccer, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Thursday, October 6th, 2011
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that emergency room visits for sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, increased among children by 60 percent over the last decade.
The number of injuries rose from 153,375 in 2001 to 248,418 in 2009, researchers found, mostly following accidents during bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball, and soccer.
The CDC says that the rise in number may not be due to changes in how children play sports or use playground equipment. Instead, researchers attribute the increase to a raised awareness among parents, coaches, and the general public of the importance of seeking medical care after a head injury.
Children may be more vulnerable to long-term effects of TBIs than adults. TBI symptoms may appear mild, researchers say, but the injury can lead to significant life-long impairment affecting an individual’s memory, behavior, learning, and/or emotions. Appropriate diagnosis, management, and education are critical for helping young athletes with a TBI recover quickly and fully.
“While some research shows a child’s developing brain can be resilient, it is also known to be more vulnerable to the chemical changes that occur following a TBI,” said Richard C. Hunt, M.D., director of CDC’s Division for Injury Response.
(image via: http://www.kob.com/)
Add a Comment