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Jackson H. Allen, Aaron M. Yengo-Kahn, Michael J. Cools, Amber Greeno, Muhammad Owais Abdul Ghani, Purnima Unni, Jeffrey E. Martus, Harold N. Lovvorn III, and Christopher M. Bonfield

OBJECTIVE

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.

METHODS

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.

RESULTS

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).

CONCLUSIONS

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.

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Jackson H. Allen, Aaron M. Yengo-Kahn, Kelly L. Vittetoe, Amber Greeno, Muhammad Owais Abdul Ghani, Purnima Unni, Harold N. Lovvorn III, and Christopher M. Bonfield

OBJECTIVE

All-terrain vehicle (ATV) and dirt bike crashes frequently result in traumatic brain injury. The authors performed a retrospective study to evaluate the role of helmets in the neurosurgical outcomes of pediatric patients involved in ATV and dirt bike crashes who were treated at their institution during the last decade.

METHODS

The authors analyzed data on all pediatric patients involved in ATV or dirt bike crashes who were evaluated at a single regional level I pediatric trauma center between 2010 and 2019. Patients were excluded if the crash occurred in a competition (n = 70) or if helmet status could not be determined (n = 18). Multivariable logistic regression was used to analyze the association of helmet status with the primary outcomes of 1) neurosurgical consultation, 2) intracranial injury (including skull fracture), and 3) moderate or severe traumatic brain injury (MSTBI) and to control for literature-based, potentially confounding variables.

RESULTS

In total, 680 patients were included (230 [34%] helmeted patients and 450 [66%] unhelmeted patients). Helmeted patients were more frequently male (81% vs 66%). Drivers were more frequently helmeted (44.3%) than passengers (10.5%, p < 0.001). Head imaging was performed to evaluate 70.9% of unhelmeted patients and 48.3% of helmeted patients (p < 0.001). MSTBI (8.0% vs 1.7%, p = 0.001) and neurosurgical consultation (26.2% vs 9.1%, p < 0.001) were more frequent among unhelmeted patients. Neurosurgical injuries, including intracranial hemorrhage (16% vs 4%, p < 0.001) and skull fracture (18% vs 4%, p < 0.001), were more common in unhelmeted patients. Neurosurgical procedures were required by 2.7% of unhelmeted patients. One helmeted patient (0.4%) required placement of an intracranial pressure monitor, and no other helmeted patients required neurosurgical procedures. After adjustment for age, sex, driver status, vehicle type, and injury mechanism, helmet use significantly reduced the odds of neurosurgical consultation (OR 0.250, 95% CI 0.140–0.447, p < 0.001), intracranial injury (OR 0.172, 95% CI 0.087–0.337, p < 0.001), and MSTBI (OR 0.244, 95% CI 0.079–0.758, p = 0.015). The unadjusted absolute risk reduction provided by helmet use equated to a number-needed-to-helmet of 6 riders to prevent 1 neurosurgical consultation, 4 riders to prevent 1 intracranial injury, and 16 riders to prevent 1 MSTBI.

CONCLUSIONS

Helmet use remains problematically low among young ATV and dirt bike riders, especially passengers. Expanding helmet use among these children could significantly reduce the rates of intracranial injury and MSTBI, as well as the subsequent need for neurosurgical procedures. Promoting helmet use among recreational ATV and dirt bike riders must remain a priority for neurosurgeons, public health officials, and injury prevention professionals.