From rural America to the suburbs, you can count on the sound of children and their new ATV buzzing up and down the street on Christmas morning. All-terrain vehicles are a popular gift during the holidays, and more often than not, you’ll see children with a safety helmet on to reduce the risk of head trauma – should they have an accident.
What parents may not know is that these vehicles also pose a high risk for severe chest injuries, according to a new study.
"I believe that many parents are unaware of how serious ATV-related injuries can be," said the study's author, Dr. Kelly Hagedorn, a radiology resident at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
"Some parents view ATVs as being more similar to bicycles. However, many of the injury patterns are more similar to those sustained in motor vehicle collisions," Hagedorn explained.
ATVs are motorized recreational vehicles with three or four tires, designed for off-road use. Because they can weigh 300 to 400 pounds and travel at speeds of up to 75 miles an hour, ATVs can often be involved in serious accidents, including crashes, rollovers and ejections, the researchers said.
The good news is that ATV-related injuries have declined since 2007. As public safety awareness about ATVs increases, more parents are making sure that helmets, protective clothing and personal oversight safeguard their children.
However, nearly 25,000 children under the age of 16 were treated for ATV-related injuries in hospital emergency rooms nationwide in 2014, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Researchers suspect that one of the reasons children’s ATV-related chest injuries are becoming more severe and frequent is that the newer vehicles are larger and weigh more than their predecessors.
"As ATVs have gotten bigger and heavier, riders have a harder time separating from the vehicle in a crash," said Gerene Denning. She's director of emergency medicine research at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
"The increasing size and weight of ATVs leads to more cases of the vehicle striking the rider. There is also a growing trend of riders being pinned by the vehicle, which can lead to compression asphyxia [a condition where the body doesn't get enough oxygen]," said Denning, who wasn't involved in this study.
The new study included records from 455 patients, 18 years old and younger. All had chest imaging at a trauma center in Houston after ATV-related incidents. The accidents occurred between 1992 and 2013. Of those admitted, 102 (22%) suffered a chest injury.
The researchers said that 40% of patients with chest injuries were treated in an intensive care unit (ICU), compared to 22% of patients without chest injuries. On average, patients with chest injuries were 13 years old.
The most common chest injury (61%) was pulmonary contusion, or bruising of the lung. About 45% of patients had a collapsed lung and 34% had rib fractures. Eight deaths occurred among the 102 patients who had chest trauma, the study found.
The study authors found that the biggest cause of chest injury was rollover (43%), followed by collision with landscape (2 %) and falls (16%).
In 41 cases, the injured child had been driving the ATV. In 33 cases, he or she had been riding along as a passenger. In the remaining 28 cases, it wasn't known whether the injured child was the driver or passenger.
While many parents are being more vigilant about ATV safety, some still believe bigger is better and are still allowing their children to operate adult-size vehicles.
"This increases both the risk of crashing and the severity of vehicle-related trauma," Denning said. "A group called Concerned Families for ATV Safety have story after story of children killed in ATV crashes. A common thread through those stories is a parent saying they didn't know how dangerous these vehicles were for their children."
ATV laws are not consistent nationwide. In many states, children younger than 16 can drive ATVs designed for adults, according to the CPSC. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under that age be prohibited from riding ATVs.
Hagedorn is scheduled to present the study results at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Concerned Families for ATV Safety, mentioned above, offers educational resources, news and ATV safety tips for parents. It also shares family stories of children injured or killed in an ATV accident. Their website is: http://www.cfatvsafety.org
Story source: Don Rauf, https://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-safety-news-587/atv-accidents-can-cause-serious-chest-injuries-in-children-717207.html