‘Most head injuries can be avoided’

Red Cross War Memorial Childrens Hospital.

The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital saw 319 road-related head injuries last year.

Friday March 20 was World Head Injury Awareness Day, and the hospital is reminding the public that most road-related head injuries in children are preventable with proper adult supervision, use of age-appropriate car-seats for young children and proper restraints for all other vehicle occupants.

Hospital spokesman Dwayne Evans says many children injured in car crashes were not in age-appropriate child restraints at the time.

“Sitting in an adult’s lap is never safe, and drivers and passengers should always wear seatbelts, even on the shortest journey,” he said.

Children up to the age of 3 must be in appropriate child restraints when travelling in private vehicles, according to the National Road Traffic Act.

“Wearing a seatbelt could mean the difference between life and death, and it is not just your own life you are protecting when you do the right thing by buckling up,” said Mr Evans.

Professor Anthony Figaji, a paediatric neurosurgeon at the children’s hospital, said there were about 50 severe-head-injury cases – the ones who end up in a coma and ventilated in ICU – annually, and this year looks set to beat that number.

“While most of them are motor vehicle accidents (MVA), the rest can be attributed to falls, crush injuries by gates or other falling objects, assault including far too many gunshot wounds, sport and play injuries, and non-accidental injury by caregivers,” he said.

Some 218 of Red Cross’s 319 road-related head injuries last year were pedestrians hit by vehicles; 54 were unrestrained passengers in vehicles; 42 involved a minibus or bakkie; and five were restrained passengers.

The Children’s Hospital Trust (CHT) is trying to raise R122 million to upgrade the hospital’s emergency centre, which sees most of these head-injury cases, among the
250 000 seriously ill and injured children who pass through its doors annually.

Visit www.childrenshospitaltrust.org.za/ to find out more about the trust’s Leave Your Mark on Life campaign.