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Pediatric traumas rose as children stayed home more

May. 25, 2020, 10:26 AM


by Jessica Pasley

During the first few weeks of the statewide stay-at-home order issued by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, physicians at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital noticed an interesting pattern.

As children were out of school and staying home, the hospital saw a higher volume of pediatric traumas, including ATV accidents, dirt bike accidents and pellet gunshot wounds.

Harold Lovvorn III, MD

The sheer volume, combined with the weekday time of the incidents, prompted Harold Lovvorn III, MD, associate professor of Pediatric Surgery and medical director of Pediatric Trauma at Children’s Hospital, to further investigate and has led to an official study into the uptick.

“It was odd,” Lovvorn said. “We were seeing summertime trauma volume that typically occurs during the weekends, but now it was during the middle of the week. “As the numbers increased, we started to take more notice. Although we don’t have any hard data to prove it, we are curious to evaluate if these are unintended consequences of the safer-at-home orders.”

Although only an observation at this point, the team has submitted an official request to study the trend.

“This time that we are living in is so unprecedented,” Lovvorn said. “Families are stuck at home. Parents are juggling working, caring for families, teaching their children … all from home. Adults are overwhelmed, working from home, multi-tasking and perhaps preoccupied.

“It’s certainly a normal response to tell your children to go outside for a bit to get some fresh air, sunshine or exercise. But we will probably need to add a caveat to ‘go outside and play.’ Maybe it’s adding the tag ‘and don’t forget your helmet.’

“When we send them outdoors for independent activities, we will need to encourage them to wear protective gear and to practice safe play.”

Lovvorn said most children don’t know how to protect themselves, so gentle reminders about following safe practices are encouraged.

“It seems that summer came a bit earlier, and the trauma season has picked up for children. While we can’t be certain, we are very interested in studying this elevation in traumas amid COVID-19 to uncover the root cause.”

It’s a stark difference from Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital, where trauma teams reported lower incidents in late April.

Over the first 20 days of April, traffic fatalities in the state were down 21%, compared to the average for the first 20 days in the two preceding Aprils.

From March 29 through April 18, the adult trauma service at VUMC admitted 131 patients, a 22% reduction compared to the average for the same three-week period over the preceding two years.

“With summer camps and other regularly scheduled activities for children on hold and in many cases canceled, we hope that raising awareness will prompt more compliance with injury prevention,” Lovvorn said.

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