ER doctors see rise in child injuries in ATV crashes


ST. LOUIS – The rising number of children injured in ATV accidents is sending a wave of worry and concern through hospital emergency rooms.

At Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital emergency room, 80 children have been treated since January 2020.

Jamie Allman’s son, Aidan, was hurt in an ATV accident.

“He was bleeding profusely,” Allman said.

The 14-year-old suffered serious injuries in a crash while visiting a friend’s farm. Aidan was a passenger on this vehicle when the driver apparently lost control and crashed.

“It was painful. It was miserable,” Allman said. “It took a long time for him to recover.”

Aidan spent several months in rehabilitation. His leg was sliced open and he needed many painful skin grafts. His father said he could have died.

At Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital the average age of a child involved in an ATV accident is 9, even though doctors and safety experts say no one under 16 should drive one.

“Of those kids who’ve come in, only 24% of them have been wearing a helmet, which is crucial in preventing head injuries and death,” said Josh Dugal, who knows a lot about childhood trauma and works at Cardinal Glennon.

There’s a variety of off-road vehicles, some are used by farmers and some for recreation. People in medicine refer to all of them as ATVs.

“A lot of people think ATVs are toys. They are not toys,” said Dr. Lindsay Clukies, an ER physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Missouri state troopers report almost 250 people were injured and 23 people died in ATV type accidents in 2020.

“Just to see the anguish on the parent’s face, the worry you see in their eye, it really hits home to a lot of us,” said Trooper Cpl. Dallas Thompson, Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Dr. Clukies said the most common injuries are broken arms or legs. They do see a significant number of head injuries.

“Within a matter of moments, an ATV can turn over,” Dugal said.

He said some ATV dealers offer safety courses for families. The University of Missouri Extension has safety advice on its web site and instructors visit schools to teach young people.

“Age is certainly a big contributor to accidents and driving something you’re not completely capable of operating,” said Kent Shannon, who works for the University of Missouri Extension.

Two years later, Aidan, now 16, is back to normal playing football, baseball, and basketball.

“ATVs, if you’re not careful with them, they’re dangerous by any stretch,” Allman said.

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