The new research, based on 40 injuries treated at Vanderbilt University’s pediatric trauma center, confirmed previous studies that golf cart crashes involving children can result in serious injuries, and are usually the result of not enforcing safety rules or age restrictions. About a quarter of the cases from the new study involved time spent in the intensive care unit. The most common cause of injury was being thrown off or overturning the cart, and in only one case was the child driver wearing a seat belt.
Golf cart crashes involving children can result in serious injuries, a new study confirms, according to a report from Reuters Health.
Researchers found that children as young as nine years old were driving golf carts, often not wearing seat belts, and faced the risk of the cart overturning, Reuters Health reported.
Non-automobile vehicles – like ATVs, go-karts, golf carts and others – “are often viewed as harmless or safe by parents and communities,” study co-author Joseph Starnes told Reuters Health. “This is especially true for golf carts, which tend to be slower.”
Yet of nearly 150,000 golf cart injuries in the U.S. between 1990 and 2006, about a third involved children under age 16, according to a 2008 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
And for the new study, Starnes and colleagues at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. analyzed golf cart-related injuries in patients under age 18 at their pediatric trauma center between 2008 and 2016, Reuters Health reported.
During that period, Starnes and his colleagues treated 40 children with golf-cart related injuries, 85 percent of whom were between ages 5 and 14.
About half the injuries were severe or moderate, the study showed. Injuries were worse in older children, and were most likely to occur in the head and neck. About a quarter of the children spent time in the intensive care unit. For half the cases, hospital charges came to more than $20,500.
The most common cause of injury was being thrown off the cart. For older children, it was also common to overturn the cart.
Only one injured child in the study was wearing a seat belt, Reuters Health reported.
“Improved education about golf cart safety may reduce the frequency and severity of golf cart-related injuries,” Starnes said.
A similar pattern, Reuters Health reported, was seen in a 2011 study at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga., which is also home to the Master’s Tournament and two global golf cart manufacturers.
“People know ATVs can be dangerous, but what’s unique about golf carts is that they usually involve people from affluent neighborhoods and well-intentioned parents who have no idea how dangerous they can be,” Dr. Brandon Miller of the Harbin Clinic in Rome, Ga., a co-author of the 2011 study, told Reuters Health.
“This [new Vanderbilt] study gives more credence to the idea that this is happening in yet another location, not just the golf capitals of the United States,” Miller added.
“Outreach to parents, golf courses and local communities could promote safe riding and driving practices,” Dr. Jason Fraser of Children’s Mercy Kansas City hospital in Missouri told Reuters Health. Dr. Fraser published research last year about pediatric injuries on ATVs, dirt bikes, golf carts, go-karts and dune buggies.
In Dr. Fraser’s study of more than 500 such injuries, 78 percent of children went to the hospital, and nearly a quarter had injuries related to the brain, neck and spine, Reuters Health reported.
“Children who are injured in golf cart accidents have a significant risk of neurological injury,” Fraser told Reuters Health. “This again speaks to the need for prevention: Head injuries are serious and most times can be prevented.”