Combine kids, the outdoors and toys, and accidents are going to occur. But one of the leading causes of traumatic injuries to children – all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs – is no toy.

“We’ve seen more ATV injuries in the past year than we’ve seen from motorcycles and bicycles,” said Teresa Light, trauma registrar at Holston Valley Medical Center. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in ATV-related injuries.”

The most common ATV-related injuries are to the head and spine. Recent studies have found ATV-related injuries are six times more likely to result in hospitalization and 12 times more likely to result in death than bicycle-related injuries.

Some states, including Virginia, have laws requiring ATV operators to be 16 and older.

“But we’ve seen 12-year-olds who were thrown from ATVs,” Light said. “People don’t seem to realize the danger they pose.”

Carol Sluss, RN, Holston Valley’s trauma coordinator, said one of the most important things parents can do is make sure children wear helmets. She also suggested that ATV riders wear goggles, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, non-skid boots and gloves.

“I can’t overstate the importance of helmets, whether kids are on bikes, rollerblades, skateboards or ATVs,” Sluss said. “When I do programs for children in schools, I draw a face on a honeydew melon and ask the kids to feel it, then their own heads. Then I drop the melon onto concrete to show them the kind of damage that can be done when your head hits the concrete without a helmet on.

“Parents need to watch their children closely. Accidents can and will happen, but if you are alert, you can prevent some as well.”


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