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Doctors see ‘dramatic increase’ in children with ATV injuries

Increase comes as students have been learning at home due to COVID-19 school closures

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While students have been learning at home instead of inside the classroom because of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors have seen a dramatic increase in the number of children in the hospital with all-terrain vehicle-related injuries.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the kids that come in with injuries from ATVs as compared to previous years,” said Dr. Marie Crandall, professor of surgery at UF College of Medicine in Jacksonville.

Crandall told News4Jax that, in a typical year while children are still in school, there are up to three injuries a month from ATVs severe enough that children are taken to the hospital. This year, Crandall said, doctors have seen five to ten incidents a month and up to two or three deaths every month, mostly because of ATV traumatic brain injuries.

Crandall said traumatic brain injury is a huge spectrum -- everything from concussion to death.

“Repeated concussions and head injuries can be very dangerous for long-term behavioral and cognitive outcomes,” she said.

Crandall said there are three take-home points: consider the age, maturity and supervision. A severe brain injury can impact the rest of your life.

In April, Yulee High School football player Alex Murphy died after weeks of fighting for his life following an ATV accident in Nassau County. The Florida Highway Patrol said the 15-year-old hit his head on the pavement. A Facebook post said the incident caused Murphy to lose 95% of function in the left side of his brain.

In March, three Clay County teens were injured and hospitalized after a crash involving two ATVs. According to the Highway Patrol, one of the vehicles overturned after the driver overcorrected, and the second ATV driver tried to avoid the overturned ATV and ended up flipping over.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Donovan Parker, 18, was killed and two other teenagers were injured in November after the ATV that the three were on struck a brick mailbox and were thrown off in Nassau County. Troopers noted that none of them were wearing helmets.

“It’s so critically important. We know helmets decrease injuries and decrease the likelihood of dying if you strike your head,” Crandall said.

And in Bradford County, two 8-year-old girls were on an ATV in October when it overturned, ejecting both of them. According to FHP, the girls were seriously injured.

Crandall said parents should supervise their children, teach them how to operate ATVs safely, and most importantly, make sure your child wears a helmet.


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