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Traumatic Brain Injury

Humpty Dumpty had a Great Fall: Prevention, Treatment & Outcomes of Traumatic Brain Injury – June 27, 2012

The story of Humpty Dumpty illustrates some of the main issues surrounding traumatic brain injury. In this edition of Café Scientifique, SickKids experts addressed the many questions about Humpty’s ordeal that were left unanswered in this popular nursery rhyme:

  • We know he sat on the wall, but why did poor Humpty fall? Could the wall have been safer? Could his fall have been prevented?
  • We know he had a great fall; what were some of the long-term effects of Humpty’s tumble off the wall?
  • We know all the King’s horses and all the King’s men tried to help, but why couldn’t they put Humpty together again? Was a lack of expertise or resources to blame?

Dr. Jamie Hutchison, kicked off the discussion by naming traumatic brain injury (TBI) as the most common cause of death and acquired disability in children. Despite the advancements in scientific research, the prevalence of TBI in children is increasing, causing the hospitalization of one in 1,000 people under the age of 20. Hutchison emphasized that TBI is not an outcome, but the start of a misdiagnosed, misunderstood and under-funded neurological disease. He explained that individuals who sustain brain injuries should be granted personalized therapy in order to live a healthy, independent and satisfying lifestyle.

Dr. Maureen Dennis furthered the conversation by focusing on the behavioural, educational and psychosocial outcomes of acquired TBI. She discussed the importance of considering an individual’s social world and seeking out a prediction model to identify specific personal characteristics that will allow for targeted intervention to achieve better outcomes.

Linda Rothman, added to the discussion with her research on brain injury prevention. She stressed that brain injuries are not accidents and are both predictable and preventable. Proper education, physical engineering, legislation enforcement – the three Es – are proactive strategies that Rothman adds, will aid in the prevention and reduction of TBI among children.

The audience asked a range of questions, from whether the new mandatory legislation of bicycle helmets has reduced TBI among children, to if it was possible for the social and personality changes in children post-TBI to be reversed. Overall, the audience was very engaged – their questions furthered the opportunity discuss the impact of TBI and they also had the opportunity to offer their own perspectives on brain injury in children.

Dr. Maureen Dennis, Senior Scientist, Psychology and Neurosciences & Mental Health, SickKids; Professor, Departments of Surgery and Psychology, Institute of Medical Sciences and School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto
Dr. Jamie Hutchison, Senior Scientist, Neurosciences & Mental Health and Physician and Research Director, Critical Care Medicine, SickKids; Professor, Critical Care and Paediatrics, University of Toronto
Dr. Linda Rothman
, PhD Candidate, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto
Moderator: Jane Gibson, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs

TBI poster