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What are All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Riding Injuries?

All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are gasoline-powered, motorized vehicles that can weigh up to 1000 lbs. They have over-sized, low-pressure tires with a seat straddled by the user. They are designed to be used by riders in off-road, non-paved environments. While this sport may be invigorating and enjoyable, it has the high potential for injury.

While injuries can be mitigated with proper safety gear and observance of the law, there is still the potential for traumatic injury to the hand, wrist, and elbow due to acute trauma.

Types of All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Riding Injuries

Serious injuries to the arm from all-terrain vehicle usage is widely documented. All-terrain vehicles rely on low-pressure tires and a short turning radius for a low center of gravity to maximize maneuverability on off roads. Due to contact with external forces to the vehicle or from falling from one, athletes have a high risk of injury.

These injuries include:

  • Carpal instability: loss of normal alignment of the carpal bones.
  • Distal radial ulnar joint instability: traumatic injury to the distal part of the radius or the ulnar styloid and TFCC.
  • Elbow fracture: damage to the olecranon, humerus and radius.
  • Perilunate dislocation: potentially devastating closed wrist injury with multiple torn ligaments.
  • Pisiform fracture: wrist carpal fracture.
  • Posterior elbow dislocation: dislocated elbow.
  • Scapholunate ligament injury: wrist sprain with an associated scapholunate ligament tear.
  • Triangular fibrocartilage tear: traumatic injury to the cartilage structure in the small finger side of the wrist.

Characteristics and Clinical Presentation of All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Riding Injuries

Due to the variety of injuries that patients may sustain to the wrist, hand, and elbow while driving an all-terrain vehicle, there are many signs to be mindful of. However, because injuries to the wrist, and elbow overlap in nature, their symptoms may also overlap from condition to condition.

Symptoms may include:

  • Subluxation, or a slipping out of place feeling in a joint, that may or may not be painful
  • Wrist not performing correctly/giving away
  • Clicking sound when the wrist is moved ulnarly from flexion to extension with axial load, or medially to laterally, and other variations
  • Severe pain in the elbow, hand, wrist or fingers
  • Swelling in the elbow
  • Inability to bend the arm

Causes of All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Riding Injuries

Patients may injure their hand, wrist, or elbow by falling onto an outreached hand or coming into contact with external forces. Both fractures and ligamentous injuries may occur as falling onto an outstretched hand (FOOSH injuries). They do not typically occur alone and are often associated with other injuries.

There are several different causes that can lead to injuries in the hand, wrist, and elbow which include:

  • Acute traumatic events
  • Chronic repetitive strains
  • Aggravation of preexisting conditions

Getting a Diagnosis for All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Riding Injuries

If an athlete presents with pain in the hand, wrist, or elbow after an accident occurs, it is important to seek medical supervision from a specialized hand surgeon as soon as possible. In order to come to a diagnosis, patients may undergo an X-ray to determine if the injury resulted in a fracture or dislocation.

Since injuries to the bone often result in injury to the surrounding soft tissues, an MRI or CT scan may be ordered to visualize ligamentous injuries or complex multi-fragment fractures.

Treatment Options for All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Riding Injuries

Treatment for biking injuries generally involves temporary bracing, anti-inflammatory medication, and hand therapy. Patients with injuries sustained from all-terrain vehicles should refrain from driving one until their injury has fully healed and benefit from medical clearance before engaging in the sport again.

Severe and chronic cases of all-terrain vehicle riding injuries that do not respond to conservative treatment may benefit from surgery.

Conservative Treatments

Some mild cases can be treated with a period of immobilization and with anti-inflammatory medication such as NSAIDs. A corticosteroid injection may be beneficial later on. Early conservative treatments include occupational and physical therapy to reduce stiffness and long-term limited mobility.

More severely disabling instances of injury may require surgery including arthroscopically assisted reconstruction.

Surgical Treatments

In the event of obvious bone deformities, such as a fracture or dislocation, athletes should seek immediate medical evaluation. Many fractures can be treated with reduction but some require surgical intervention.

Unstable fractures or cases involving ligamentous joint disruption may demonstrate deformity and require surgery to restore anatomy and minimize deficits and arthritis. Some injuries may be treated with arthroscopic and open techniques, particularly in cases of wrist joint instability.

Preventing an Injury while Riding an All Terrain Vehicle

While many injuries can be considered inevitable to the extent that falls are common, many potential injuries can be avoided with proper care and precaution. Compliance with local laws is paramount, in addition to proper safety gear.

Prognosis for All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Riding Injuries

Conservative treatment methods may be treated well by splinting or rest. Simple fractures require splinting, casting, and rehab.

Physical therapy may be required for 1-3 months following the surgical treatment period. Patients are often able to return to ATV use following early diagnosis and prompt treatment.

If You Believe You Have an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Riding Injury Contact HandSport Surgery Institute

Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with our talented team.  People experiencing ATV injuries should be evaluated to try to avoid further injury and mobility issues.

If you have been injured, it’s important to be evaluated by a highly skilled professional. Call Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment, obtain an accurate diagnosis, and start to restore comfort to your hand.

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