Introduction: Although many studies have shown that short falls by children rarely result in serious injury, no recent study in the United States has assessed the prevalence and the characteristics of such falls. Because the history of a short fall often is given in the instance of suspected child abuse, data addressing the characteristics, the frequency, and the severity of such falls would assist in abuse investigations.
Methods: Anonymous questionnaires were distributed at primary care offices to parents of children younger than 5 years. Parents answered a series of questions regarding any falls their children had sustained before the age of 2 years. Information gathered included the age of the child at the time of the fall, the details about the fall, the medical attention sought, and any injuries sustained.
Results: We received a total of 307 eligible surveys. There were 209 falls reported for 122 children. Only 24% of those children sustained any injury as a result of the fall. Most (85%) of the children who sustained injuries had a bruise or a bump. Of the 20% (40 children) who were brought for medical care, only 13 children received medical treatment. The most severe injuries were in 2 children who sustained concussions; only 4 children had permanent injury (cutaneous scars). Children who fell on a hard surface were 6 times more likely to have an injury compared with children who fell on a soft surface (P = 0.001) In addition, for every 1 unit increase in fall height, risk of injury increased by a factor of 2.3.
Conclusions: In short falls, ground surface and fall height were significant predictors of injury risk. The results of this study also support the opinion that short falls rarely cause injury. Therefore, a history of a short fall in a seriously injured child should raise the suspicion of child abuse.