Pediatric spinal injuries in all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and dirt bike crashes are relatively uncommon but may be associated with significant morbidity. There are no recent studies examining these injuries, their management, and outcomes. Therefore, a retrospective study was performed to characterize pediatric spinal injuries related to ATV and dirt bike crashes over the last decade.
Data on all patients involved in ATV or dirt bike crashes evaluated at a regional level 1 pediatric trauma center over a 10-year period (2010–2019) were analyzed. Descriptive statistics were analyzed and chi-square, Fisher exact, and Mann-Whitney U-tests were performed comparing the demographics, injury characteristics, and clinical outcomes in patients with versus those without spinal injuries.
Of 680 patients evaluated, 35 (5.1%) were diagnosed with spinal injuries. Over the study period, both spinal injuries and emergency department visits related to ATV or dirt bike crashes increased in frequency. All spinal injuries were initially diagnosed on CT scans, and 57.9% underwent spinal MRI. Injuries were most commonly thoracic (50%), followed by cervical (36.8%). The injuries of most patients were classified as American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grade E on presentation (86.8%), while 2 (5.3%) had complete spinal cord injuries (ASIA grade A) and 3 patients (8.6%) were ASIA grade B–D. Operative management was required for 13 patients (28.9%). Nonoperative management was used in 71.1% of injuries, including bracing in 33% of all injuries. Patients with spinal injuries were older than those without (13.4 ± 3.35 vs 11.5 ± 3.79 years, p = 0.003). Spinal injuries occurred via similar crash mechanisms (p = 0.48) and in similar locations (p = 0.29) to nonspinal injuries. Patients with spinal injuries more frequently required admission to the intensive care unit (ICU; 34.2% vs 14.6%, p = 0.011) and had longer hospital stays (mean 4.7 ± 5.5 vs 2.7 ± 4.0 days, p = 0.0025).
Although infrequent among young ATV and dirt bike riders, spinal injuries are associated with longer hospital stays, increased ICU use, and required operative intervention in 29%. Increasing awareness among ATV and dirt bike riders about the severity of riding-related injuries may encourage safer riding behaviors.