Beware of bunk beds: study finds child brain injury linked to everyday household items

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

Nearly three quarters of non-fatal traumatic brain injuries in children are linked to everyday household items, according to a new US study this week.

Researchers found 72 per cent of such brain injuries in young people up to age 19 "were attributable to consumer products that are regulated by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission," according to the Taylor & Francis Group, which published the in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Injury.

Uneven floors accounted for one in 10 cases of emergency department-treated traumatic brain injuries, lead researcher Bina Ali told USA TODAY.

Beds were the top source of non-fatal brain injuries in infants. Older children's brain injuries came primarily from contact sports.

Beds stayed linked to head injuries through age ten. And bunk beds proved riskier, Ali said, because of how easy it is for children to fall from the top bunk.

"In most cases, infants and children are safe in bed and when playing sports outside, but our study highlights some of the risks," Ali said in a statement.

As children grow up, the items linked to injuries tended to be found outside the home. Football was the leading cause for traumatic brain injury for those ages 10 to 19.

Football, bicycles and basketball were linked the most with brain injuries among sports and sporting goods, while beds, chairs and tables were most linked among home furnishings.

And the most potentially dangerous fixtures? Floors, of course, followed by stairs.


Parents can reduce the risks certain items pose to children by using stair gates and guard rails, removing trip hazards such as rugs and using helmets. Better lighting inside the home can help, too.

The vast majority of traumatic brain injuries (93.7 per cent) occurred on accident. A small percentage stemmed from assault.

Ali said results were consistent with past studies on traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs.

"Our findings address an important gap in the literature by identifying leading products and activities that contribute to TBIs in children and adolescents at different developmental age groups," she said.

The study did have limitations: The team wasn't able to examine socioeconomic status or locations of all incidents, and they were only able to evaluate the injuries admitted through hospital emergency departments.

Data came from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System -- All Injury Program and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

USA Today