March 8, 2005 - Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Little Rock
Kids' ATV Injuries Rising by By Kathleen Doheny HealthDay Reporter TUESDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Serious accidents involving children riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are a growing problem, with a new study finding hospitalization for such injuries jumping nearly 80 percent between 1997 and 2000. Close to 5,300 Americans under the age of 18 were hospitalized with ATV injuries between 1997 and 2000 -- an increase of 79.1 percent during that time period, said study author Dr. Mary Aitken, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine and a staff physician at the Arkansas Children's Hospital, in Little Rock. "I think we have an alarming problem overall," she said. "This increase is very concerning." The study appears in the March issue of Pediatrics. Aitken and her team evaluated data from the 1997 and 2000 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Kids' Inpatient Database (KID), allowing them to generate population-based national estimates. According to Aitken, 1997 was the first year KID data was available. It's the only nationwide database of hospital discharge data on children. About 68 percent of children hospitalized had stays of less than four days, but 10 percent stayed more than eight days. About 1 percent of the young patients died while in the hospital. Injuries include traumatic brain injury, bone fractures and spinal cord injury, Aitken said. "Not all of them are serious," she added. "There is a wide range." ATVs are typically four-wheeled machines with motorcycle-style handlebars and a high center of gravity. Their large, low-pressure tires restrict the vehicles to off-road use. About 884,000 ATVs were sold in 2003, according to Mike Mount, a spokesman for the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, an industry group. More than 15 million Americans ride an ATV annually, he said. While the increasing number of ATVs being used is a factor, misuse of the vehicles and a lack of training by many riders also plays a big role in the injury rate, Aitken said. There are excellent training programs, she said, and the industry is dedicated to safety. But "only a small proportion of people who have ATVs take advantage of the training program," she added. Parents can do much to reduce the injury toll, she said. "Key to this is that parents [must] have a realistic understanding of the power of these vehicles, and that they obtain training for themselves," she said. Parents should be aware of the manufacturers' instructions and warnings, she added. In response to the study, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America issued a three-page statement supporting the American Academy of Pediatrics' efforts to reduce ATV injuries among children and advocating a three-pronged approach to the problem. It should include rider training, parental supervision and appropriate state safety laws, according to the statement. Among other guidelines, the institute recommends that riders under age 16 use ATVs under adult supervision and not carry passengers. The size of the ATV should be age-appropriate, and helmets and protective gear should be worn, the institute recommended. Aitken agreed that following these recommendations could make a difference. "Everyone should wear a helmet," Aitken said. "Not a bike helmet, but a standard motorcycle helmet." "And ATV users should recognize that ATVs are not passenger vehicles, with very few exceptions," she said. They are usually single-rider vehicles, and "many of the injuries we see occur when multiple riders are on an ATV, and that makes them more unstable," she said. In another study in the same journal, researchers from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center reported that severe injuries are also on the rise among children and teens using two-wheeled vehicles intended for off-road use, such as dirt bikes. After examining data from six Ohio hospitals, they found that 182 children under age 16, the legal driving age in Ohio, were hospitalized from 1995 to 2001 for motorbike-related injuries. One patient died from the injuries. More than half of the injured did not wear helmets, the researchers found. More information To learn more about ATV safety, visit the Injury Free Coalition for Kids.
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