Trauma is the leading cause of death and disability in the pediatric and adolescent population. According to the World Health Organization, each year approximately 950 000 deaths in children under the age of 18 years, are due to injuries (1).
With respect to the economic burden of illnesses, in the population of Canada, injuries are the 4th highest, topped only by cardiovascular, musculoskeletal diseases and cancer. (2)
In Quebec (2000 to 2005) trauma was responsible for the death of an average of 207 children under the age of 18 years, annually. Trauma was the leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 18 years. Traumatic injuries accounted for 7 688 hospitalizations in children and adolescents which was the third (11%) most important cause of hospitalization. (3)
In Canada, unintentional injury is the leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 18 years of age. Unintentional injuries are also the leading cause of hospitalization in the 10 – 14 year old age group. (4 )
Similarly, in the United States (2000), unintentional injury is the leading cause of death as well as the second leading cause of hospitalization among children ages 14 and under. In addition, unintentional injury is the leading cause of medical spending in the 5 to 14 year old age group Each year, 25% of children under the age of 14 (approximately 14 million children) sustain injuries serious enough to require medical attention. (5)
As a trauma centre, we at the Montreal Children’s Hospital are continually faced with the challenge of finding an effective way of conveying the important message of balancing activity and fun with safety. According to the World Health Organization, prevention strategies should be developed through a combination of education, environmental measures, and in some cases enforcement. Endless legislation is not always the most well received and effective strategy.
Likewise the important message of preventing injuries should also not lead to a generation of overweight, sedentary children. Participating in sports and recreational activities contributes to good health and is an important aspect of the physical, psychological and social development of children and teens. With the increased popularity of team, contact and extreme sports, this can sometimes lead to injury, as some of these activities are associated with certain degrees of risk. It is important to assess the level of risk and determine if it is appropriate for you or your child.
Approximately 30-35% of trauma related injuries seen at The Children’s are sustained while participating in sports and recreational activities. Other causes of injury include: motor vehicle collisions; falls; burns; poisoning; drowning; and acts of violence (abuse, assault).
Most of these are preventable. It is important to be aware of the risks, follow the safety recommendations for specific sports and activities, and make smart choices. It is also advisable for parents, teachers, and coaches to set a positive example by doing the same.
Having a good time does not preclude being informed and making wise choices. Our trauma programs aim to promote health through the prevention of injuries. A great day of activity and fun, or a family outing filled with laughter and great times should not end in a visit to the trauma centre.
Director, Trauma Programs