What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
According to Palmer, SBS is caused by the vigorous shaking of an infant or young child by the arms, legs, chest, or shoulders. Forceful shaking can result in brain damage leading to mental retardation, speech and learning disabilities, paralysis, seizures, hearing loss, and even death. It may cause bleeding around the brain and eyes, resulting in blindness.
"A baby's head and neck are especially vulnerable to injury because the head is so large and the neck muscles still very weak," explains Dr. Palmer. "In addition, the baby's brain and blood vessels are very fragile and easily damaged by whiplash motions, such as shaking, jerking, and jolting."
The statistics paint a grim picture. Every year there are an estimated 50,000 cases of SBS in the United States, and studies have indicated at least 7,500 to 15,000 infants and children die as a result. SBS most often occurs in babies less than six months old, however it can occur up to the age of five. SBS is now the fastest growing occurrence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children under the age of one.