ATV-related spinal injuries on the rise

All-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents are a common cause of Le Bonheur Emergency Room visits, especially this time of year. While they might seem like toys, ATVs caused nearly 30,000 children ages 16 and younger to present to the ER due to injuries in 2009, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. And hospitals are seeing an increased rate of spinal injuries due to ATV use. Leslie Rhodes, DNP, PPCNP-BC, a nurse practitioner with Le Bonheur and Campbell Clinic’s pediatric orthopaedic team, answers some important questions about ATV safety below.

What types of injuries do you see as a result of ATV accidents?
The most common injuries we see as a result of ATV injuries are fractures of the lower leg (tibia/fibula) and forearm. Not as common, but important to mention are injuries to the spine related to ATV use. From 1997 to 2006, hospitals saw 476 percent increase in ATV-related spine injuries.

Why are they so dangerous?
Few states require a license to drive an ATV, yet these vehicles can reach speeds of up to 50 mph. Most accidents happen from the vehicle overturning or tipping. ATVs’ high center of gravity makes them easy to tip.

What safety tips do you recommend?
ATVs are high-energy vehicles that should not be used for recreational use, even though it is the culture in this area. Children should not be allowed to operate ATVs, as they do not have the skills or strength to safely handle these powerful vehicles. The best way to avoid injury from an ATV is to avoid them all together. Never operate an ATV on a public road, and always wear protective gear like helmets and boots, if you do choose to ride on an ATV.

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