Fourteen-year old Cristian Avina knows all too well the devastating injuries all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) can cause. Four months ago, Cristian and his sister, Rociel, hopped on an ATV for a little innocent fun in the desert near their home. Cristian was riding tandem with his sister when he lost control of the ATV and it flipped, sending Cristian and Rociel flying--neither was wearing a helmet. Cristian suffered serious head injuries, including an amputated ear.
"This has been a nightmare," said Martha Avina, Cristian and Rociel's mother. "Rociel was not badly hurt and went for help. Upon her return, she found her unconscious brother being pecked at and his severed ear being eaten by vultures. Cristian's ear could not be reattached--reconstructive plastic surgery to rebuild it will begin this summer."
Whether on vacation or out for recreation, many adults and children are hopping on ATVs for some warm weather fun. But ATVs are not toys. They can go more than 60 miles per hour, weigh more than 700 pounds and tip over easily. In fact, more than 135,000 Americans are injured in ATV-related accidents each year, 30 percent of them children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports.
The American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS) and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) are urging ATV riders, especially parents and children, to be more cautious and follow safety tips to help reduce the incidence of ATV-related injuries.
"Unfortunately, cases like Cristian's are not uncommon," said ASMS President Andrew Wexler, MD. "It will take multiple reconstructive surgeries--attaching an implant, providing soft tissue coverage and skin grafting--to rebuild Cristian's ear. Each year, plastic surgeons treat thousands of patients with severe head trauma, eye injuries, disfiguring lacerations and facial fractures from ATV accidents. These debilitating injuries may be avoided by following a few safety tips."
Plastic surgeons strongly recommend following the CPSC safety tips for ATV riders:
- Get properly trained
- Always wear protective gear--especially a helmet
- Many ATV injuries are head injuries.
- Additional protective gear includes closed toed shoes, goggles, gloves, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts to protect against cuts.
- Children under 16 should never ride adult-sized ATVs
- Children should only use ATVs that are appropriate for their age. Most injuries occur when a child is driving or riding an adult-sized ATV.
- Never ride tandem
- Most ATVs are designed for one person; a passenger can make it difficult for drivers to control the machine.
- Don't ride on paved roads
- ATVs can be very difficult to control on pavement; collisions with cars and other vehicles can be deadly.
- Never ride at night
- Don't ride under the influence
"When it comes to protective gear, it's especially important to wear a helmet, since many ATV-related injuries involve trauma to the head and face," said ASPS President Richard D'Amico, MD. "Studies show helmets can reduce non-fatal head injuries by 64 percent and deaths by 42 percent."
"ATVs can be treacherous and difficult to steer. They are not like riding a bicycle," said Dr. Wexler. "The injuries we see from these machines can be devastating."
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