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Study links not wearing seat belts to greater incidence of pediatric spinal fractures

Teen-seat belt
Photo: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

New Hyde Park, NY — Nearly two-thirds of pediatric spinal fractures sustained in motor vehicle crashes occur as a result of not wearing a seat belt, according to the results of a recent study led by researchers from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

Using data from the National Trauma Data Bank, the researchers looked at 34,563 pediatric patients who fractured their spines between 2009 and 2014. Some of the patients had multiple spinal fractures, which resulted in a total of 45,430 fractured vertebrae.

Overall, teens between the ages of 15 and 17 accounted for about 63% of the spinal fractures – two-thirds of which occurred in motor vehicle crashes. Most of the fractures from motor vehicle crashes occurred in males (54.4%). Among the patients who were unrestrained during the crash, 44.2% were teens.


When seat belts were worn during a crash, the patients had a 21% lower risk of death as well as lower odds for multiple types of fractures and other injuries.

In a press release, the researchers say measures to increase seat belt use among children and teens – especially young drivers – should be emphasized.

The study was published in the journal Spine.

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