Paediatric trauma can result in significant levels of on-going disability. The aim of this study was to explore the restrictions on activity participation that children experience following serious injury from the perspective of their caregivers. We performed a thematic analysis of transcripts of semi-structured in-depth interviews with the caregivers of 44 seriously injured children, conducted three-years after the injury, and purposively sampled from a population-based cohort study. Both temporary and on-going restrictions on school, sport, leisure and social activities were identified, some of which were imposed by caregivers, schools, or recommended by health providers. The perceived risk of further injury, physical restrictions, emotional state and fatigue levels were important influences on degrees of activity restriction. Children who were socially less engaged, especially those who were more severely injured, had difficulty making and retaining friends, and exhibited signs of depression or social withdrawal. The activities of pre-school children were strongly regulated by their caregivers, while school age children faced obstacles with participation in aspects such as study, sport, and peer and teacher relationships, affecting learning, school attendance and enjoyment. The findings highlight the need for primary prevention and reducing the impacts of serious injury throughout the continuum of care.
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