HOUSTON (September 11, 2009)

As severe ATV injuries rise sharply among Houston children, trauma specialists at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital, home to the Gulf Coast region's only Level I pediatric trauma center, today called on families to refrain from allowing youngsters to drive ATVs and use helmets at all times.

"Allowing children to operate adult ATVs is like handing them a loaded gun to play with," said Stephen Fletcher, M.D., pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and associate professor of clinical surgery at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. "These are powerful motor vehicles, and many well-intentioned adults do not understand how easily they can lose control of an ATV until it happens to them. Children should not be driving adult ATVs at all."

At Children's Memorial Hermann, trauma specialists treated 29 children with ATV related injuries in 2007, and in 2008, they treated 46, an increase of 58 percent. In 2009 to date, specialists already have treated 37 children, including one fatality.

"The numbers just keep climbing, and many of the children we see have severe injuries that require extensive rehabilitation," Dr. Fletcher said. Nationwide, children under 16 suffered 40,000 ATV-related injuries, including 107 deaths, in 2007, the latest year for which numbers are available. This accounts for 27 percent of all children's injuries and 20 percent of children's fatalities, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Adults are not immune to ATV injuries. Specialists at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center treated 73 adults with ATV-related injuries in 2007, and they treated 83 in 2008. In 2009 to date, 60 adults have been treated.

Nationwide, more than 150,000 children and adults were injured by ATVs in 2007, according to the CPSC. Dr. Fletcher recommends that everyone who operates an ATV: