ATVs Behind Spike in Kids' Injuries

All-Terrain Vehicle Accidents Are Increasingly to Blame for Amputations, Spinal Injuries in Children

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on March 12, 2010
From the WebMD Archives

March 12, 2010 -- Accidents involving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have caused a sharp increase in childhood injuries, often very serious ones, new studies show.

The number of amputations and spinal injuries caused by ATV accidents involving children has jumped in recent years, and some deaths have been reported, according to research presented at the 2010 meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) in New Orleans.

In 2006, 4,483 children in the U.S. were injured in ATV-related accidents, says Jeffrey R. Sawyer, MD, chief of pediatric orthopedic trauma at Campbell Clinic-LeBonheur Medical Center in Memphis. Of those, 332, or 7%, had spinal injuries.

That’s a 140% increase in children injured and a 368% jump in spinal injuries from 1997.

The focus of this year’s meeting of the AAOS was ATVs and childhood injuries.

Sawyer and other researchers presented data indicating that:

  • Children account for 14% to 18% of ATV riders but 37% to 50% of injuries.
  • The mean age of ATV riders was 12.9; 70% of injuries were to children under 16; and 76% of patients were male.
  • More than 200 children were admitted to hospitals in 2006 with spinal injuries, and 93% had a spinal fracture.
  • Children with spinal injuries had 895 other assorted injuries, including to the pulmonary-thoracic area, head, pelvis, wrists, forearms, and other areas.
  • Spinal injuries to children increased from 3.8% in 1997 to 7.4% in 2006.
  • The risk of spinal injury in ATV-related accidents is higher for girls than for boys.
  • Patients with spinal injuries had longer hospitalizations, 5.3 days vs. 3.3, and higher charges, $38,738 compared to $24,952.
  • Multiple injuries are common.
  • Upper extremity fractures accounted for 41% of orthopaedic injuries.
  • ATVs have drastically increased in numbers to 7.6 million over the past couple of decades and have become far more powerful.
  • Accidents on some types of ATVs have resulted in amputations. The relative risk of amputations from accidents on a relatively new type of multi-rider ATV is 10.9 times higher than from accidents on standard, single-rider ATVs.
  • California has had the most ATV-related deaths of children of any state.
  • In 2008, nearly 28% of all ATV-related injuries were to children under 16.


Sawyer and colleagues Jason Schroeder, PhD, of the University of Memphis, and Matthew S. Bernard, of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis, write in an abstract for the meeting that ATV-related injuries continue to rise and “are a significant source of injury” of children. Their statistics are from KIDs databases covering the years 1997 through 2006.

Researchers say in a news release that “serious consideration needs to be given to the design and safety of these vehicles and education among families and general rides regarding safe use.”

WebMD Health News



News release, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Annual meeting of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, New Orleans, March 9-13, 2010.

Shea, Kevin, MD, Intermountain Orthopaedics, Boise, Idaho.

© 2010 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.