CHOP Research Examines the History of Head Injuries in Classic Nursery Rhymes

From Humpty Dumpty to Jack and Jill, many classic fictional characters sustain their fair share of serious head injuries

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CHOP Research Fictional Characters Research Book Illustration credit: British Medical Journal Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, Five Little Monkeys…these may make for some fun nursery rhymes, but in real life, they’d also make for a crowded concussion ward!

Declan Patton, PhD, a Research Scientist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's (CHOP) Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) and Minds Matter Concussion Program, recently authored a scientific perspective of how injury and concussion experts and researchers would approach the head injuries sustained by some of our favorite fictional characters. The “findings” were published in the British Medical Journal.

Patton considers if some of these characters could have avoided their fates or received proper care with the knowledge our experts possess today. Perhaps Jack’s workplace could have implemented various forms of hazard control, like helmets, to prevent injury while falling to fetch a pail of water. Perhaps a nursemaid would have known better than to stick a cradle – or any child-restraining device – in a treetop, since even the best restraints don’t necessarily protect a child from a fall of that height. And one wonders if the old man from It’s Raining, It’s Pouring had home monitoring technology to detect a fall, or if he had taken steps to reduce the risk of falling, he may have had a much better day.

Like all great nursery rhymes, while they seem fantastical on the surface, they often contain valuable lessons for children, and hundreds of years later, they can serve as a valuable reminder to all of us just how devastating a concussion can be!

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