Slapping Kids Upside the Head Causes Traumatic Brain Injury

Help prevent shaken baby syndrome

  • Never shake a baby. Also, do not slap or hit a child of any age on the face or head. A child’s brain is very delicate. Shaking, slapping, or hitting a child can cause serious harm, even though it may not leave any obvious sign of injury. –Healthwise staff, Shaken Baby Syndrome: Home Treatment

From Chapter 5 Birth Trauma/Traumatic Brain Injury, taken from this work by David H. Jones:

Other impacts of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) include children bumping and falling into coffee tables, falling against the brick fireplace, or misjudging their distance when coming around the corner in the kitchen and slamming their little heads into the corner of the counter.

Also, contact sports, such as boxing, kickboxing, football, wrestling, and soccer. All of which are quite common and the long lasting effects and strain it imposes upon the body are not widely known.

As well as auto, bike, skiing, and any sport that leads to fast and dramatic contact that is directed to the head and upper neck region.

Slapping someone up along or upside the head also can cause minimal damage at the time but the long-term results are traumatic and detrimental to the body as a whole.

Most of us at some point have seen fathers pop their sons along side the head, usually in the temple region above their ears. Remembering that in this region there are four interconnecting cranial faults/membrane/joints that interact with one another.

This author personally asks parents not to slap, pop, or smack your children up along side the head.

When this does happen it is usually done out of frustration and with the mind set that the youth will get some sense knocked into them. This is not the case and the direct effect of such will dramatically be the opposite.

By doing so the child is in danger of altering and preventing the development and ability to understand and comprehend as well as reasoning and learning.

Remembering; that these events and gestures even in the lightest cases will build up over time causing added unnecessary pressure upon not only the nervous system but on the brain as well.

The APSAC Handbook on Child Maltreatment describes intentional head trauma to a child, saying that a blow to the face “may fracture teeth or put them through the lips,” while “[t]he eardrum may be ruptured by a blow to the ear from a hand or object.”

According to Healthwise, Shaken Baby Syndrome can still affect children up to age 5:

Shaken baby syndrome occurs mostly in children younger than 3. It is most common in babies younger than 1 year of age. But it also can affect children up to age 5. Shaken baby syndrome can cause serious long-term problems…..

Shaking or throwing a child, or slamming a child against an object, causes uncontrollable forward, backward, and twisting head movement.

Brain tissue, blood vessels, and nerves tear. The child’s skull can hit the brain with force, causing brain tissue to bleed and swell.

Young children are most likely to have brain injury when they are shaken or thrown because they have:

  • Heavy, large heads for their body size.
  • Weak neck muscles that do not hold up the head well.
  • Delicate blood vessels in their brains.

This tells us that we need to protect young children’s heads, not go around slapping them willy-nilly.  Maybe slapping is not the same as shaking or throwing, but considering the vulnerability of a child’s head, and how hard slaps can get from an enraged adult, it’s very easy to make the leap to slapping being dangerous as well.

Before you think I’ve completely lost it, let’s look at what we now know about head trauma/CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.) These are things even the NFL front office knows, although it took them an amazingly long time to figure them out:

  1. Head trauma is cumulative.
  2. It doesn’t require a particularly forceful blow to cause damage.
  3. Any damage is bad. (See Item No. 1.)

……..This comment made me really start paying attention to how often players slap each other’s helmets or use their own helmeted head to hit the helmet of a teammate.

A touchdown catch appears to require head slaps or bumps from any and all surrounding teammates. (The picture heading the article shows Heath Miller being mugged by Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey..)

When the player returns to the bench, the coaches start slapping them upside the head. But almost any play considered to be well-done can bring on a volley of head-bumps or slaps.

I realize they are wearing helmets. But as I discovered at a press conference announcing a material designed to reduce head trauma, the helmets most NFL players wear were designed before the effects of concussions were known, and are designed to prevent skull fractures.

This is obviously a good thing, but the current helmets do essentially nothing to minimize the effects of impact on the brain.

It may seem silly to worry about a friendly head slap or bump, but my question is, why even take the risk it is adding to the burden playing football places on the player’s brain?

If you are going to play anything resembling what is currently called “football,” there is going to be some amount of unavoidable brain trauma. Why not remove the avoidable forms?

If nothing else, I would hope coaches and parents of children will eliminate this practice at the youth level. It is already clear that children’s brains are more easily damaged than even those of young adults.Rebecca Rollett, Unnecessary Head Trauma

If this is a risk for adult football players with friendly slaps, how much more a 3-year-old subjected to a wrathful slap from a large parent!

Shaking or hitting a child’s head or face is always dangerous. Young children cannot control the movement of their head as well as adults can.

Shaken baby syndrome (shaken baby–impact syndrome) is brain damage caused when a baby is shaken, slammed, or thrown against an object. —HealthLink BC

According to the Perspective Network‘s TPN Fact Brochure: Prevention,

The third most common cause of brain injury is assault. A blow to the head, a gunshot wound or even shaking a person can cause serious and permanent injury….

It is extremely important to learn proper methods of disciplining children.

Shaking a child can result in brain injury. Any hit or slap to the head can cause the brain to whip back and forth in a quick motion, resulting in damage similar to that caused by whiplash.

If you lack the appropriate parenting skills, seek help.


NSPCC boss Mary Marsh said: “There is a risk parents may choose to hit children on parts of their body where injury is less visible, such as the head, which can cause serious harm.

Defining acceptable ways to hit children should become a thing of the past.  It should be just as wrong to hit a child as it is to hit an adult.” —New Smacking Law Comes Into Force


From 27 October 2003, it will be illegal to punish children by:

  • Shaking
  • Hitting on the head
  • Using a belt, cane, slipper, wooden spoon or other implement……

Smacking is not completely prohibited. Whether a physical punishment is legal or not will depend on the factors detailed previously under ‘changes in the law’. However, smacking is not advisable as a method of disciplining children since it:

Can be dangerous – it is easy to forget how delicate children are, particularly if you are frustrated or angry. What feels to you like a light slap can have the potential to cause real harm to a small child.

Sets children the wrong example – rather than correcting misbehaviour, it can teach children to hit out at people who are doing things they don’t like or who don’t do what the child wants them to do.

Has effects which last long after the physical pain dies away – young children will not necessarily associate the punishment with their behaviour. It can make them angry and resentful and can be damaging to their confidence and self-esteem.

Smacking is not an effective way to teach children discipline

‘Smacking’ is only one word used by parents in Scotland for physical punishment. Others include spanking, hitting and slapping. This leaflet applies to all forms of physical punishment. —A Guide for Parents in Scotland, put out by the government

I also found this, though I don’t know the credentials of the person who answered:

Can getting slapped in the head give you brain damage?

Yes. Repeated blows to the head can give you brain damage. One hard blow or many small blows can do great harm.

Unlike the other organs in your body, the capillaries in your brain are totally closed. Blood stays inside the capillaries as it circulates through your brain.

If you get slapped and a capillary breaks, blood can ooze out into your brain. You may have gotten a bruise on your arm or leg sometime in the past.

A bruise in your brain kills the brain cells where you get the bruise. A slap to your head can cause a bruise in your brain. Constant slapping can cause brain damage. –HubertB,


Also see Don’t smack your kids: Research into teenage football concussions, Child Abuse, Examples of Child Abuse, Hitting Kids Upside the Head is ABUSE, and  …Because slapping kids on the head is ABUSE!  STOP THE VIOLENCE!.