KEY POINTS

  • Over 11,000 children and teenagers are treated for nonfatal ATV-related head and neck injuries annually
  • About 31 kids and teens get injured each day from ATV-related mishaps
  • Health experts recommend safety measures to prevent ATV-related head and neck injuries among the youth

Children and teens would usually love spending a lot of time outdoors and a vast majority of them enjoy riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). But the popular activity comes with certain risks. An average of more than 11,000 children and teenagers are treated for nonfatal ATV-related head and neck injuries annually in the emergency departments in the United States, says a new study.

Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Ohio, analyzed data pertaining to ATV-related head and neck injuries involving patients younger than 18 years of age from 1990 to 2014.

Their findings revealed that approximately 31 kids and teens get injured per day due to ATV accidents and the number was higher during the warmer months of April through September, up to 68 per day on the weekends.

"Although the number of nonfatal ATV-related head and neck injuries decreased during the latter part of the study period, they remain too frequent and can have long-term consequences. Most of these serious injuries can be prevented," the study’s co-author Kris Jatana said in a report.

The researchers observed the following trend in injuries in ATV-related accidents:

  • 30% of the injured young patients were thrown off an ATV
  • 19% of them underwent crashes
  • About one-third of the injuries were from broken bones, concussions and closed head injuries
  • 15% of the injured youth required hospitalization
  • Almost half of the injured youth were kids younger than 12 years

The researchers also found that riding ATVs on roadways were particularly very dangerous. The youth who met with ATV accidents were about 1.5 times more likely to get hospitalized if they were injured on a street or highway compared to other locations.

Also, kids younger than 12 years of age were more likely to sustain broken bones when thrown off an ATV and teens were more likely to suffer concussions or closed head injuries.

"ATVs are powerful machines designed strictly for off-road use that require mature judgment, coordination, strength, and moment-to-moment decision making. Adoption of the safety recommendations outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics would go a long way in preventing many pediatric ATV-related head and neck injuries," the study’s senior author Gary Smith said in the same report.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations include:

  • Children should be at least 16 years old to operate an ATV
  • Always wear a helmet designed for motorcycle use
  • Do not entertain passengers or ride on roadways