The mortality and hospitalization statistics showing injury as the leading cause of premature mortality and a major source of hospitalizations provide a sense of the enormous scale of the problem. However, they do not illuminate the true burden of injury on the individual, the population and society. To date, some research studies have investigated individual-level functional and psychological outcomes, but has focused on hospitalized, severely injured adult patient populations (Polinder, 2007; Soberg, 2007). The exclusion of children and youth from this work has resulted in substantial gaps in understanding the health consequences of injury for less severe injuries, particularly among children and youth.
Emergency department patients with less severe injuries represent the vast majority of medically-attended injury patients, yet the impact of their injuries is largely unknown. For example, one study demonstrated that 50-75% of individuals with injuries that resulted in permanent disability were treated as outpatients (Barker, 1996). Of the scant literature on injured emergency department patients, administrative and/or retrospective data have often been used; prospective longitudinal data is extremely rare. These omissions leave considerable gaps in our understanding of the burden of injury.