Trauma surgeon and ATV crash survivor stress importance of safety

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From 2017 through 2020, the number of ATV crashes in the U.S. spiked from around 15,000 a year to more than 90,000.

A local trauma surgeon says he’s seen this statistic up close and personal as local numbers seem to mimic the national trend.

At Trinity Health, there were 26 patients treated for injuries that came from ATV accidents back in 2017.

In 2020, that more than doubled to 55.

“A lot of the injuries that we see are directly the result of the fact that the vehicles are so heavy so they turn over onto the patient and result in a lot more internal injuries than, say, someone riding a motorcycle who tends to be flown off the motorcycle or a dirt bike,” said Dr. Gary Wease, Trinity’s Trauma Medical Director.

That exact scenario is what happened to Burlington teen Iver Christensen a couple of years ago.

The then 13-year-old was on a side-by-side four-wheeler with a friend when they took a turn too quickly.

Iver said, “There was like, I think like a 70 percent chance that I was going to get an amputation.”

He broke multiple bones in his arm as well as his clavicle and his pelvis.

His arm was saved after several surgeries and a lot of physical therapy to basically re-learn how to use it.

Since then, he’s just about back to normal.

“It’s still pretty uncoordinated but it’s gotten a lot better since then,” he said.

He plays basketball, football and track but realizes what could have been.

“I was super lucky,” he said. “And a lot of people could not get as lucky as I got, which could end up being much worse than what happened to me.”

Dr. Wease said deaths due to ATV accidents are on the rise, as well, with about 600 annually nationwide.

That’s why he, and people like 15-year-old Iver Christensen, stress the importance of safety.

“We need to make sure that they understand that safety equipment, helmets, long pants, eye protection, things like that need to be included,” Dr. Wease stressed.

Iver had a similar message.

“Wear a seatbelt, helmet, pay attention when you’re driving, stop goofing around and going as fast as you can. You can still have fun .. just not dangerous fun.”

Just last weekend, Dr. Wease said he had two ATV traumas on Saturday.

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