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The impact of helmet use on neurosurgical care and outcomes after pediatric all-terrain vehicle and dirt bike crashes: a 10-year single-center experience

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


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.


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.


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.


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.