Abusive Head Trauma occurs when an infant or young child is violently shaken and/or slammed. The traumatic event may only last a few seconds, but it can cause severe brain damage and even death. The neck muscles in a baby or young child are underdeveloped, weak and are unable to support the baby’s large head. When a child is violently shaken and/or slammed, the brain can be harmed as the brain cells and blood vessels stretch and are damaged, causing bleeding and brain injury. Impact: Most victims will either die from their injuries or suffer lifetime disabilities. Because shaking/slamming causes part of the brain to die, many vital brain functions may be lost.
Long-term consequences of shaking/slamming can include
- Impaired motor and cognitive skills
- Cerebral palsy
- Hearing loss
- Spinal cord injury
Abusive head trauma prevention can be achieved through education and awareness. Not all parents and caregivers know that shaking or slamming a child can be dangerous. Parents and caregivers should also be aware of minor bruises or injuring (sentinel injuries) in their infants who are not mobile. These type of small injuries, that are common in walking children, should not be present in infants who are not yet able to walk or even crawl. Babies who are not cruising should not be bruising. Sentinel injuries are actually early warning signs that must be recognized and responded to in order to prevent future, more severe injuries to an infant. Sentinel injuries deserve further medical evaluation. Doing so can lead to early detection of a medical problem and can prevent the escalation of abuse.
For parents and caregivers
all babies cry. Crying is a normal part of child development.
Parents and caregivers should
- Have a plan to deal with your baby’s crying
- Have a plan to keep your cool
- Have a plan for anyone who cares for your baby
- Have a plan to reduce your stress
The Prevent Violence Against Children Act passed in 2006, requires hospitals, birthing centers, home visiting programs, child care providers, schools and all providers of prenatal, postpartum and young child care coordination services to have educational materials about abusive head trauma available to parents.
Abusive Head Trauma Prevention grantees map