Years ago, safety experts discovered that obese adults were more likely to suffer serious injuries if involved in an automobile accident, most likely because heavier people have more mass and more momentum in collisions.
Now, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have discovered that obese children share the same risk. Keshia M. Pollack and her colleagues analyzed data on 3,232 children ages 9 to 15 who were involved in 2,873 crashes between 2000 and 2006, 34 percent of whom were overweight or obese. The findings, published in the journal Injury Prevention, demonstrated that during a car crash, overweight or obese children face twice the risk of injury to their arms and legs that normal-weight children do.
Car accidents kill approximately 8,000 children in the United States each year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12 percent of children between 2 and 5 are obese, as are roughly 17 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 19. Thus, the study's findings could have wide-ranging implications, say the researchers.
"...Clearly, the impact of the association can be dramatic and immediate in terms of car crash injuries," lead author Pollack said, "so we really need to think about this additional consequence of children being overweight and obese."
Obese children are at greater risk in car accidents perhaps because their weight makes the impact of a collision more severe, or possibly because obese children are more prone to bone fractures. Whatever the reason, we can add one more drawback to the already extensive list of obesity-related problems.
"Our findings document yet another risk associated with overweight and obesity in children," said Pollack. "Previous research has shown that poor-fitting car safety seats can put overweight children at greater risk for injury. We found that being overweight negatively impacts older kids involved in motor vehicle accidents as well."
Car seat manufacturers have already begun selling heftier models to accommodate the increasing number of overweight and obese children. According to national growth charts and census data, more than a quarter of a million U.S. children ages 1 to 6 are heavier than the weight limits for standard car seats, which are designed for 1- to 3-year-olds weighing up to 40 pounds. Using undersized car seats can put children at even further risk of injury in a car accident.
According to Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, the recent study "underscore[s] that childhood obesity and overweight has large public health implications, and impacts on many health conditions. And it fits into the overall picture that being overweight entails a risk not just for diabetes and heart disease, but also potentially for bone fractures and other physical injuries that are more immediate."
Labels: car-crashes, driving, safety