Children should wear helmets around horses, researchers suggest

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Children are getting injured around horses, even when not riding.
Children are getting injured around horses, even when not riding.

Head trauma evidence in Australia has convinced researchers that children should always wear helmets around horses, even when not riding.

The study team analysed data in relation to all patients presenting with any horse-related trauma to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane between January 2008 to August 2014.

They delved into patient demographics, length of hospital stay, the mechanism of injury, safety precautions taken, and diagnoses and surgical procedures performed.

The research conducted by the University of Queensland’s Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research Group is one of few recent comprehensive studies of paediatric horse-related trauma in Australia.

Lead author Dr Jane Theodore looked at 187 incidents in children aged up to 16 years, and most resulted from falls while riding horses, Theodore said.

“Traumatic brain injury was the most common injury sustained, with riders who wore helmets having significantly less severe traumatic brain injuries and shorter stays in hospital compared with those who did not.”

She said there were more than 40 cases where children suffered non-riding injuries relating to horses.

“In this group the majority were not wearing helmets, and of these more than a third sustained a traumatic brain injury.

“Children who undertake activities while handling horses, such as grooming, can be injured by horse kicks, being knocked down or trampled. Wearing a helmet in these instances may reduce the risk of acquiring a more severe traumatic brain injury.”

About 85 per cent of the patients with horse-related trauma were female, and more than a third of injuries involved children aged 12 to 14.

There were three deaths, and more than 7 per cent of patients suffered permanent injuries to their brain, eyes, face and limbs.

Horse-related injuries tended to occur at home or other private residences, predominantly near metropolitan and regional locations.

Theodore, who is now working within the Department of Surgery at Queensland’s Redcliffe Hospital, said the study also revealed the need for standardised horse-related injury documentation in hospital emergencies.

“This would prompt health professionals to record whether or not patients were wearing safety gear, such as helmets or body protectors,” she said.

“The data could be used for future studies on horse-related injury prevention in the paediatric population.”

The study is published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Paediatric horse-related trauma.
Theodore J.E., Theodore S.G., Stockton K.A., Kimble R.M.
J Paediatr Child Health. 2017 Mar 7. doi: 10.1111/jpc.13471.

The abstract can be read here

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