Young cyclists in N.S. at greatest risk of major trauma: Report

HALIFAX – A new study set to be released by the Nova Scotia Trauma Program finds that young cyclists are at the highest risk of major trauma.

The report, currently under review by the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine and exclusively obtained by Global News, was led by Dr. Robert Green, an emergency room physician and medical director of the Nova Scotia Trauma Program.

“Activity in children is very important but it is a risk, there is no doubt about it,” he said.

Green and his team looked at data between 2000 and 2013 for sports-related major trauma in children from the ages of three to 18. The frequency, type, severity and outcome of the major traumas were evaluated.

Major trauma is defined as traumatic brain injury, significant broken bones, falls and motor vehicle collisions.

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Researchers found 107 cases of major trauma in children related to sports during the 13 years. The greatest proportion of the incidents came from cycling, at 53 per cent, while hockey, skateboarding and skiing tied for second place, each at seven per cent.

Green calls the results surprising, adding researchers originally thought hockey would come out on top.

“I think hockey, as Nova Scotians and as Canadians, gets a lot of press. [But] We need to be looking at all sports, specifically cycling to make sure we reduce injury in our pediatric population,” he said.

He noted the cause of each incident was not categorized but said parents may not be taking the sport of cycling seriously enough.

“A lot of those [cycling incidents], I would presume would be related motor vehicle collisions. If we look at the use of helmets, which we collected that data, 100 per cent of our hockey population used a helmet. In the cycling population, it was 36 per cent so we have a lot of work to do to increase the use of helmets.”

Dr. Kevin Gordon, a pediatric neurologist at the IWK Health Centre, said the findings make sense.

“Cycling is one of the activities that we let a good bulk of our youth participate in. The thing you have to remember about major trauma is it generally involves an impact of high force, and cycling is one of the things we allow our kids to come across cars,” he said.

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“Cycling accidents involve really being flung from a bicycle and hitting a hard object.”


Cyclists aren’t deterred by findings

Avid cycler Andrew Feenstra takes his four-year-old daughter cycling, but he said he’s not deterred by the findings of the report.

“We’re not going to live in a bubble. We still need to be outdoors and enjoy the activities that we like,” he said.

Feenstra said every activity has inherent risks, but he rides defensively and teaches his daughter to do likewise.

“If you’re riding on the road, you need to be careful of sharing the roadway with other users, choosing routes that are safe, looking both ways when you’re getting out onto a roadway, wearing your helmet, shoulder checking and just being aware of your surroundings more than anything,” he said.


Additional findings of report

Other notable findings include the fact most patients, 84 per cent, were male and that children aged 11 to 14 years old had the highest injury rate.

The report also found the majority of traumas took place in the summer and spring, which accounted for 70 per cent of incidents.

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In addition, although cycling had the highest frequency, the severity of trauma was greatest in skateboarding then football, swimming and hockey.

“You have the possibility of encountering traffic particularly if the skateboard is out of control at that time. You’re going to hit something. You’re going to decelerate very quickly and you’re going ot have some major trauma,” Gordon said.

Gordon said parents need to ensure their children are wearing the appropriate protective gear, particularly a good helmet.

“Whenever you’re thinking your kid could be moving at speed, make sure there is appropriate head gear in place.”

There were some limitations to the study however. It did not look at the frequency of participation in the sports or how serious the level of participation was. The report was also limited by the size of the province’s population

“What we looked at was purely numbers so was there a major trauma in Nova Scotia in that time frame, what was its association with sport and which sport was it actually the result of,” Green said.

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