The Child as a Projectile
I had to cover this review, just because I saw the title. If I ever have a child (pity that poor child) they will be guinea pigs for experiments on “children as projectiles”. I can’t help it, every time I read the phrase, I think of someone putting a baby with a little helmet into a big slingshot. “Guess what, hon? We’re going to do science today!”

Tibbs et al. “The Child as a Projectile” The Anatomical Record, 253:167-175, 1998.

But actually this paper was WAY too serious for a Weird Friday, well, except for the title.  Childhood accidents are actually the leading cause of death in children.  The paper says that childhood accidents are reaching epidemic proportions.  That is not necessaily true, childhood accidents have not increased all that much.  There was an increase with the advent of the car, of course, and a small increase recently with the rise in extreme sports for the whole family (like snowboarding). 

It’s mostly just that children aren’t dying from the normal childhood ailments.  In the past, 1/5 of children didn’t ever make it past age 5.  Now of course, we have the MMR vaccine (when people give it to their kids, anyway), and the eradication of polio, and with the improvements in sanitation in the US, kids don’t get typhoid or cholera anymore. 

There are also differences with childhood injury now in that children don’t die of these accidents as often anymore.  The paper states that 6,600 children died in 1995, and 120,000 were permanently disabled.  Of course, in the time before advances in trauma care, those numbers probably would have been reversed, with 120,000 dying and 6,600 surviving but disabled.  Though the advances in trauma care means that many more children will survive, it also means that these children will be bearing the cost of the accident for the rest of their lives, as will their families and society in general.  So basically, even though there have been huge advances, play it safe with your kids, the odds of death may be lower, but a disabling injury can be a staggaring cost to a family.

The basic point of this review was to establish what the authors want to call “projectile child syndrome”.  I have to say that the official medical term doesn’t make it any better.  If I were a parents standing in an emergency room and heard the doctor say “ma’am, we have diagnosed acute projectile child syndrome”, the combination of the phrase “projectile child” and the reality of the situation might cause a mental breakdown for me right there.

So what IS projectile child syndrome?  First of all, you’d be really surprised by how easy it is for a child to become a projectile.  All you have to do is make a REALLY big potato gun and…there I go again.  Anyway, the authors define a projectile child as being a child that is going through space (thrown, dropped, etc) for a distance at least equal to their height.  Most of these examples are the result of things like car accidents where a kid is improperly restrained (apparently some people don’t realize that the car seat must also be attached to the CAR as well as the baby).  Others involve older children with athletic injuries, such as biking, football, or skateboarding.

However, you don’t have to get thrown through a windshield to go as far as your height.  For a newborn or infant, that’s really not very far at all, and in fact there are a lot of traumatic head injuries and permanent disabilities that result when children fall from something only as high as a shopping cart.  Of course that’s not far, but they are accelerating the whole time, and though there is less mass to collide with the floor, that mass is also much more delicate than an adult would be.  The skull plates aren’t closed, the neck is weak, etc.

In the middle child years (4-9), the biggest accident site (other than a car), is actually a playground.  Think of how high those monkey bars are, and how easy it is for a kid to fall their own height before they hit the ground.  The authors of the paper conclude that the best preventative is education.  Children will wear helmets when they see their parents do so, and they will buckle their seatbelts when their elders do the same.  And I swear, if I see another kid hangin’ off the front end of a shopping cart, or sittin’ in the bed of a TRUCK GOING 50 MPH (this is, after all, the South), someone’s going to get yelled at.  Wait ’til I tell them their kid could get projectile child syndrome. Sigh…knowing people in my neck of the woods, they’ll look at me in confusion and say “what’s a perjectil?”

Tibbs, R.E., Haines, D.E., Parent, A.D. (1998). The child as a projectile. The Anatomical Record, 253(6), 167-175. DOI: <a rev=”review” href=”;2-0″>10.1002/(SICI)1097-0185(199812)253:63.0.CO;2-0

5 Responses

  1. Made me think….if a child is not anchored to anything and if that child starts projectile vomiting, considering “action equals reaction”, will the said child become a projectile as well?

  2. I remember when I was a kid, there was this big slide in our playground. It was an act of supreme bravery and daring to climb up to the top and then jump down, rather than sliding. I never quite dared until I was about eight, but I’m pretty sure that it was high enough to be at least my hight (I was quite short back then).

    So if this rather sillily-named projectile child syndrome can still be happening even if the child is not injured then i can quite safely say that over 50% of the kids in my class had projectile child syndrome.

    We used to jump off swings as well, once they’d reached the highest point in the swing. I used to *love* doing that. Seriously, for a few seconds it felt like you were suspended in air and not moving. The floor below was covered in sand, so you never landed on anything hard, although all the teachers used to get a bit pissed off at you for doing it.

    Turns out I had a syndrome. Who knew that?

  3. Nah, projectile child syndrome I think is only diagnosed when a kid comes into the ER with a split-open head. So you didn’t have a syndrome, but you COULD have.

  4. […] The Child as a Projectile: I had to cover this review, just because I saw the title. If I ever have a child (pity that poor […]

  5. […] The Child as a Projectile: I had to cover this review, just because I saw the title. If I ever have a child (pity that poor […]

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