Severe trauma to the head and spine resulting from all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents are increasing dramatically according to research released from the University of Utah Department of Neurosurgery. The research highlights the need for efforts to improve ATV stability, increase helmet use, and greater efforts to train riders in safe operation of the vehicles, according to a press release.
The research by neurosurgeons Joel MacDonald, MD and Michael Finn, MD, states that there were approximately 1,117,000 emergency room visits and 495 deaths due to ATV injuries nationwide in 2001, increases of 211% and 159% respectively since 1993. The estimated national costs of ATV-associated injuries are $3.24 billion annually.
While injuries due to accidents occur in all age groups, children and youths, younger than 20 years, are disproportionately affected, comprising 42% of the head and spine traumas in the study.
“Studies show that the majority of children involved in ATV accidents are riding adult-sized vehicles,” MacDonald, associate professor of neurosurgery, stated in the release. “Children are at increased risk because of their underdeveloped motor coordination and physical strength, less experience operating motor vehicles, poorer judgment, their risk-taking behavior, and lack of instruction.”
Rollovers were the most common documented accident involving ATVs, followed by collisions with stationary objects or other vehicles.
Children may be at additional risk for rollover-type mechanisms because they have less weight and strength to forcefully lean the vehicle into a turn, especially when operating an adult-sized vehicle.
The research shows that there is an increased risk of ATV-related neurological injury among those not wearing helmets. While hospitals do not consistently document helmet use when a patient enters the emergency department, the study found that 168 patients were wearing helmets at the time of accident, while 352 were not. Those without helmets were more likely to have sustained traumatic brain injury.