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Kids and ATVs: Injuries on the Rise

Children Suffer Amputated Feet and Broken Necks in Accidents Involving All-Terrain Vehicles
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 26, 2007 (Chicago) -- All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are driving kids straight to the emergency room.

ATV-related deaths and ER visits by children under age 16 more than doubled from 1995 to 2005, and a new study shows that the kids are suffering a variety of "horrifying" injuries, from amputated feet to broken necks.

"There's no such thing as a safe ATV for kids," says researcher Chetan C. Shah, MD, a radiology fellow at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.

"Children shouldn't be on an ATV as either a driver or a passenger," he tells WebMD.

Shah presented his findings here at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

ATV Injuries and Children

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 40,400 children under age 16 were treated for ATV-related injuries in emergency rooms in 2005, more than twice the figure in 1995. A total of 120 of the kids died from their injuries, nearly double the number in 1995.

About 14% of ATV riders are children, but they account for 37% of all ATV-related injuries and 38% of all ATV-related deaths, Shah says.

"We were seeing so many injuries that were horrifying -- kids coming in with partial amputated limbs, severe head injuries, deaths -- that we wanted to document the extent of the problem," he says.

The study involved 500 children admitted to Arkansas Children's Hospital following ATV accidents between 1995 and 2005. The average age of the kids, 155 of whom were girls, was 11 1/2 years.

Broken Legs Most Common

Six of the kids died, five due to brain injuries, Shah says, adding that the fatalities represent only children who died at the hospital, not any who died at the accident site.

Another 16 children suffered nonfatal brain injuries and 85 sustained skull fractures; 38 kids had brain bleeds (hemorrhage).

"Eyes had to be surgically removed in two kids," he says.

Also, 21 suffered spinal fractures and five had spinal cord injuries.

Thirty-six children suffered lung injuries and 68 sustained injuries to the spleen, liver, kidneys, or pancreas.

A total of 208 children fractured an extremity, most often a broken leg. "There were 12 traumatic amputations, with some children losing their feet," Shah says.

He says that the amputations most frequently occurred after a child's foot got caught in the motorized chain that's on one side of the ATV. "It's like putting your foot in a chain saw," he says.

Shah says the youngest victim was a 6-month-old infant who was riding with his mother. His thigh bone fractured, leaving him with a permanent limp, he says.

The youngest drivers were two 2-year-olds who managed to start the ATVs without their parent's knowledge, Shah says. "One had traumatic amputation of four toes and the other was found unconscious beside a flipped ATV. She had a severe brain hemorrhage that left her with permanent disability," he says.

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