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Health Consultants For Child Care

Enhancing Health, Safety & Learning for Minnesota Child Care Providers since 1993

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) describes a form of child abuse that physicians now call Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) in infants and young children up to age five.  The AAP recommended and reaffirmed in 2013 to use the term AHT when describing an injury to the skull or its contents due to inflicted blunt impact and/or violent shaking.  This results in brain injury much like an adult may sustain in a car accident.  SBS occurs when an infant is violently shaken by the chest or shoulders with the arms or legs flailing with or without impact. This creates rotational forces causing the brain to rotate within the skull causing serious injuries. Young children, especially babies have very weak neck muscles and do not yet have full support of their heavy heads.  Although there is usually no external sign of head trauma, a “whiplash” affect moves their fragile brains back and forth within their skulls resulting in bleeding inside the head.  The degree of brain damage depends on the amount and duration of the shaking and the forces involved in impact of the head.  The bleeding results in signs of head trauma almost immediately.  Injuries from AHT/SBS include:

  • Brain damage
  • Blindness or eye damage 
  • Hearing loss
  • Development delay and/or learning disabilities
  • Mental Retardation
  • Seizures
  • Spinal cord damage (paralysis)
  • Death

Reference: American Academy of Pediatrics.