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Study shows head trauma to children shortens their lives

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HOUSTON – The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling all caregivers to focus on preventing abusive head trauma in children.

A study released Monday reveals a tragic number of years of life lost because of head injuries endured when children under age 4 are abused.

Abusive head trauma (AHT) includes shaken baby syndrome and blunt trauma at the hands of caregivers. The academy said the kids who survive aren't expected to live past 21 years old.

Dr. Michelle Lyn, with the Texas Children's Hospital, said hundreds of infants come into her emergency room every year with AHT and there's no going back to normal life. With the majority of AHT victims being under 4 years old, their brains are too fragile to make a full recovery.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said in 2009 that 334 children died from head trauma. Fifty-seven percent were left blind or partially blind, 23 percent of the children required a feeding tube, and the years of life lost or lived with disability added up to 69,925 years.

"Those in the medical community and social services community see it and understand the impact," Lyn said. "This study allows us to put this in a quantifiable way to say these are lives that are lost. They're lost and not coming back. Those that survive, survive with severe deficits."

Lyn added that it is society's responsibility to check on caregivers. She said it's as simple as the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." She said nobody should ever be permanently alone with a newborn who will cry every few hours and that family members need to check on caregivers and report anything suspicious.