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APIL Child Injury Special Interest Meeting

On 8 November, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers held its Child Injury Special Interest Meeting, at the Bloomsbury Hotel in London.

The speaker was Paediatric Neurologist and Neurobiologist Dr Andrew Curran. Dr Curran has been involved with Manchester University’s Department of Education, developing research ideas that look at the use of emotional literacy in the classroom. He has also conducted work exploring the processing of reward in the human brain. His book, The Little Book of Big Stuff About the Brain(Crown House Publishing) is one of the leading books on brain-based learning and the importance of emotional literacy in both classrooms and people’s lives.

Dr Curran ran an interactive session, encouraging participation and questions from the audience. He presented information on some of the key issues in child brain injury. The focus was mainly on frontal head injury (the most common head injury in road traffic accidents) and the ‘contra coup’ type injury, where the brain oscillates in the skull following impact. Although the medical profession can do nothing about the initial injury, it can intervene and try to prevent secondary injury – for example swelling of the brain – by use of pressure monitoring, controlling swelling with drugs, cooling or craniotomy.

It used to be believed that children recovered better than adults from brain injuries. Dr Curran explained that this is no longer the case, as research has shown that the human brain does not mature until about the age of 25, meaning that the true extent of a head injury and its impact on a child’s life may not be known until many years afterwards. There is a relatively low percentage of children who have both physical disability and a brain injury. Therefore, a child with a brain injury can appear as though they have been unaffected but the hidden consequences of the injury in relation to cognitive functioning may not be know for some time. It is important to be aware of this since the child may go from being an A-grade student to a C-grade student some considerable time after an accident. This will impact on their educational achievements and in turn their future career. This is likely to mean a future loss of earnings claim if compensation is being pursued.

Dr Curran also touched on the impact of head injury, not just on the child, but also on the entire family. It often means a massive change in family dynamics. A mother may have to give up work to look after her child and a father may not be able to achieve promotion because he needs to be at home more, or vice versa. Although it is important to be aware of the wider effects of the child’s injury on the family, this is not something that is currently compensatable.

The audience raised some interesting questions on a number of issues, such as whether there is any research justifying the cooling of a baby’s brain following head injury, and also relating to the onset of early puberty – known as ‘precocious puberty’ – caused by head injuries. The latter is something that can – and should – be controlled, as otherwise it can restrict growth of the child.

Dr Curran provided an informative and user-friendly talk on the child’s brain, which the audience appreciated. Laura Merry then gave the APIL Executive Committee an update about key developments in the personal injury field, a relevant subject to those attending the meeting.

Posted on Nov 16th, 2011 by Lyons Davidson