Golf Carts' Use Is Spreading, and So Is Danger to Kids

From - September 15, 2017

Golf Carts' Use Is Spreading, and So Is Danger to Kids

FRIDAY, Sept. 15, 2017 -- Golf carts are not just for golfers anymore, and their widening use means injuries for kids who want to give the vehicles a whirl, new research shows.

Researchers looked at more than 100 children ages 17 or younger treated at pediatric or adult trauma centers in Pennsylvania after being injured in a golf cart from early 2004 to late 2014.

The injuries were not always mild. Three-quarters experienced at least one bone fracture; more than 4 in 10 suffered a skull fracture; and more than a third required admission to an intensive care unit (ICU), the study showed.

Such data "made us aware that golf carts were causing significant injuries in children within our state," said study co-author Dr. Mariano Garay.

However, golf carts "are not given as much attention as other recreational vehicles," said Garay, currently a resident physician at Allegheny Health Network who was a medical student at Penn State College of Medicine when he worked on the study.

"The idea for the study originated while conducting a project on ATV [all-terrain vehicle] injuries in children," Garay said.

He and his colleagues found that "over the 11-year period we studied, the number of children who were admitted to a trauma center in Pennsylvania, due to golf cart-related injuries, remained relatively constant," he said.

"[But] we also found that the significance of the injuries were comparable to those sustained by ATV riders," Garay noted. "Which was surprising since golf carts, in general, cannot achieve the speeds of ATVs."

He pointed out that in Pennsylvania golf carts are exempt from registration requirements, though they are not supposed to be driven over public roads except when used to cross.

Prior research has shown that most cart-linked injuries occur on the golf course, but as many as 30 percent now happen on the streets, or at a home or farm.

The researchers said they were also unaware of any existing parental or physician guidelines with respect to golf cart use among children.

The average age of the injured kids was 11, the study found. Among pediatric golf cart accident victims, older children -- defined as 6 years old and up -- were less likely to suffer a fracture of some sort than children under age 6.

However, more than a quarter of the children did suffer a concussion (27 percent). The risk for concussion was found to be higher for children ages 6 to 11, compared with kids under 6. Roughly 25 to 30 percent sustained brain injury and brain bleeding, and one child died.

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