Increasing Number of Children Hospitalized for ATV Injuries

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The popularity of the all terrain vehicle (ATV) has resulted in an increasing number of children being hospitalized with injuries, including a rise in the number of traumatic brain injuries. Overall, hospitalizations for ATV injuries increased 150 percent among people younger than 18 years, according to a report in the Journal of Trauma.

ATV injuries increased most for children ages 15 to 17

Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reviewed hospitalizations for ATV injuries over a nine-year period (1997-2006). The data was from the Kid’s Inpatient Database of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. The investigators found that mild, moderate, and severe injuries increased over the nine-year period, and that the rates for hospitalizations with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury tripled.

The study’s lead author, Stephen M. Bowman, PhD, MHA, assistant professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, noted that he and his team found that 30 percent of the children hospitalized for ATV-related injuries had traumatic brain injury. “All-terrain vehicles are inherently dangerous to children,” he remarked.

Even though manufacturers are required to put labels on vehicles with engines greater than 90cc as inappropriate for children younger than sixteen, “our data indicate that a growing number of children are receiving serious injuries due to ATV use, suggesting that parents are unaware of these recommendations or are choosing to ignore them,” said Bowman.

One group of parents that are not ignoring the hazards of ATVs is Concerned Families for ATV Safety. This network of parents is dedicated to reducing the number of injuries and deaths related to ATV use among young people, and raising awareness of the need to keep children younger than 16 off ATVs.

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Overall, the Johns Hopkins study found that ATV injuries increased the most in the South and Midwest and among both males and females ages 15 to 17. The most dramatic increase—250 percent—was seen among females ages 15 to 17. Males in the same age group had the highest rate of ATV hospitalizations.

According to the US government website ATVsafety.gov, the number of children younger than 16 who died due to ATV-related injuries was 153 in 2003, 180 in 2004, and 163 in 2005, while the respective estimated number of emergency department treated injuries were 38,600, 44,700, and 40,400. There are no separate figures for children ages 16 to 18 years.

ATV related injuries and deaths seem to be improving since the 1997-2006 data review, however. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission stated in a January 26, 2010 press release that the estimated number of children younger than 16 who died in 2008 from ATV-related injuries was 74, and that more than 37,000 children required hospital treatment for injuries. These are not final figures for 2008.

In an attempt to bring the numbers down even further, the industry, Consumer Protection Safety Commission, and consumer advocacy groups recommend that children ages 12 through 15 not ride ATVs with engines larger than 90 ccs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no child younger than 16 ride an ATV of any size.

Yet despite the recommendations of all these groups, and even though the number of deaths and in children hospitalized for ATV injuries have declined since the significant increase seen in the Johns Hopkins study, the numbers are still too high. Bowman noted that “Increasing helmet use through a combination of policy and education is critical” to helping reduce ATV-related hospitalizations among children.

SOURCES:
ATVsafety.gov
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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