After a debilitating ATV accident this past June, Olympic athlete Amy Van Dyken-Rouen is now working on recovery. Van Dyken-Rouen, who won 4 gold medals in the 1996 Olympics, became paralyzed after an ATV rolled over her. Currently she is undergoing rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado.
The Olympian stressed the importance of maintaining a positive outlook on her circumstances as she practiced getting out of the driver seat of her car. “You gotta keep it light because there is a lot of seriousness but you gotta have fun with it. You know? It’s your new life. You gotta have fun,” said Van Dyken-Rouen. “Every day it’s a celebration because I am here and I made it through another night.”
In 1996, Van Dyken-Rouen broke records when she swam the butterfly in under 60 seconds, and again when she became the first woman to win six gold medals. After the ATV accident, she lost all feeling below her belly button, making everyday tasks a challenge. However, she occasionally feels tingling, which makes her optimistic.
“It’s hard, when they pin prick you and you can’t feel it that’s really hard, and it’s kind of a realization that yes I am paralyzed and I can’t feel,” she said. Van Dyken-Rouen’s spirit and drive from years of competitive swimming are proving helpful for this new challenge.
ATV accidents like Amy Van Dyken-Rouen’s are not uncommon; in fact, the number of accidents reported to emergency rooms each year has remained constant or increased. Nearly 75 percent of accident result in debilitating spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries.
The CPSC also reports that, between 1982 and 2011, they received 11,688 reports of ATV-related fatalities. What’s more, 2,865 of those ATV-related fatalities happened to children younger than 16 years old, which translates to 25 percent of the total number of reported fatalities. Of that 25 percent, 1,226 of the fatalities were children under the age of 12, or 43 percent.
ATV-related crashes and accidents are even more common than ATV-related fatalities, according to the CPSC. In 2011 there were approximately 107,500 ATV-related injuries that required emergency-department treatment. 29,000 of those injuries occurred to children under 16 years of age, which comes out to 27 percent. Approximately half of the injuries requiring emergency-room attention were diagnosed as contusions fractures, and the majority of injuries occurred to the arm, head, or neck.
Riding ATVs has been considered as equally as dangerous as playing football or diving, all of which are among the leading causes of traumatic brain injury in children 17 years of age or older. Statistically, ATV injuries are most common in rural areas with white males ages 18 to 30. Studies have revealed the mean age of ATV riders to be 12.8 years old.
Of all ATV-related fatalities, 80 percent were a result of traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury. ATV safety advocates encourage common sense safety tips when operating the ATVS, which can reach up to 100 miles per hour. Riders are encourage to get safety training, wear helmets, and avoid riding tandem, on pavement, or under the influence.