Auto Accidents Rank First for Kids, Especially Those Not Wearing Seatbelts

A new study has shown that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury to the spinal cord in children. To prevent injuries like these, researchers recommend that children wear seatbelts. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury in children. The researchers state that motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of spinal cord injury in children under the age of five, accounting for over 55% of all cases. The researchers add that almost 70% of children and teens who sustained spinal cord injuries in auto accidents were not wearing seatbelts at the time the accident occurred.

These findings were based on two large databases that contain hospital discharge records between 1997 and 2000.

Around 1,400 children and teenagers aged 0-18 years were admitted annually to U.S. hospitals in the United States for treatment of spinal cord injuries. This is almost two children and teens per 100,000 with spinal cord injuries.

The Leading Causes of Spinal Cord Injury in Kids

Michael Vitale, MD and PhD from Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center, New York, conducted the study.

According to Vitale’s research team, the top causes of children’s spinal cord injuries were:

  • Motor vehicle accidents: 56%
  • Falls: 14%
  • Firearm injury: 9%
  • Sports injuries: 7%
  • In the study, 82 (30%) cases of pediatric spinal cord injuries were caused by drugs and alcohol.

Boys are at higher risk

The study also showed that spinal cord injuries were twice as common in boys than in girls.

Vitale’s team suggests that this could be due to the fact that boys are more likely than girls to engage in violent contact sports like football, or that they are more likely than their female peers to own or drive cars.

Researchers also found that black children are at greater risk for spinal cord injury than other races, for unknown reasons.

Vitale’s team emphasizes safety to prevent spinal cord injury.

The researchers state that basic education about motor vehicle safety, seatbelts and driver awareness could make a significant difference in lowering teens’ risk of serious injury, death, or spinal cord injury.

Updated 01/24/22