Two thirds of all paediatric spinal fractures that occur in the US are related to people not wearing seatbelts, according to a recent study in the journal Spine.
Research by Vishal Sarwahi (Cohen Children’s Medical Center, New York, USA) et al found that more than 60% of paediatric spinal fractures occur in children ages 15 to 17, coinciding with the beginning of legal driving. The researchers have emphasised the need for measures to increase seatbelt usage, particularly by younger drivers, and outline the potential trauma that can be avoided through proper seatbelt use.
Using the American College of Surgeons’ National Trauma Data Bank, Sarwahi and colleagues studied 34,563 paediatric patients (those under 18 years) who sustained spinal fractures between 2009 and 2014. Many of the patients had multiple spinal fractures, with a total of 45,430 fractured vertebrae.
Overall, teenagers between age 15 and 17 years accounted for about 63% of spinal fractures, two-thirds of which occurred in motor vehicle accidents (MVAs). These findings show that around the time teens get their drivers’ license, drivers and passengers are at highest risk for MVA resulting in spinal fracture. A total of 58% of the injured patients were male.
The study also found that seatbelt use lowered the risk of death by more than 20%. For young patients in MVAs, wearing seatbelts was also associated with lower rates of multiple vertebral fractures, other types of fractures in addition to spinal fracture, and head and brain injury.
Sarwahi et al state: “Nearly two-thirds of paediatric spinal fractures sustained in MVAs occurred in children who did not use belts.
“Ensuring our new, young drivers wear protective devices can greatly reduce morbidity/mortality associated with MVA and can help save lives, and spines.”