Objective. To assess the impact of helmet use on the pattern, and severity of pediatric equestrian injuries.
Design. A prospective observational study of all children less than 15 years of age who were brought to the University of Virginia children's Emergency Department with horse-related injuries.
Results. During the two-year period of the study, 32 children were evaluated. Two children were injured when a horse stepped on them. Thirty children fell from or were thrown from a horse. Of these, 20 were wearing a helmet. Head injuries were more frequent in those patients not wearing helmets. The mean Modified Injury Severity Scale (MISS) score for riders without a helmet (12.9) was significantly higher (more severe) than that for helmeted riders (2.8). All three patients with a Glascow Coma Score <15 on arrival were not wearing a helmet at the time of injury. The frequency of hospitalization was significantly higher for those not wearing a helmet. Compared with other common mechanisms of childhood injury the mean Modified Injury Severity Scale score of injured riders was exceeded only by that of pedestrians struck by a car.
Conclusion. Equestrian injuries are more severe than those suffered from other common pediatric mechanisms. Helmet use is associated with decreased frequency and severity of central nervous system injury.