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Tuesday, December 8, 2015
In the field of pediatric trauma, Peter T. Masiakos, MD, MS, FACS, FAAP, finds joy in saving children’s lives after potentially life-threatening events. In some cases, however, the outcomes aren’t good and the effects of losing a patient send painful emotional ripples through families and everyone on the care team, including Masiakos.
While visiting a friend’s house, then 8-year-old Sean Kearney rode an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) for the first time and became pinned under the vehicle. Masiakos, a pediatric trauma surgeon and director of Pediatric Trauma Services at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, tried to revive Sean to the best of his abilities. Three days after arriving at MGHfC, Sean died of a brain injury. Masiakos was struck by the case and became determined to help prevent other patients and families from the dangers of ATV accidents.
From Sean’s death in 2006 to 2008, Masiakos worked with Steven Baddour, then state senator for Massachusetts, and Sean’s parents to create Sean’s Law, which aims to protect children from riding ATVs by raising the age minimum for riding to 14. It also increases penalties for riding illegally.
Masiakos’s lifesaving efforts have since inspired government officials in Australia to reform laws on the use of ATVs. After reading statistics on the number of children who died from ATV accidents in Australia in recent years, the Coroner’s Court in Sydney had Masiakos and Baddour presented lessons learned at the Australian Injury Prevention Network Conference.
Deaths from ATV accidents have been the leading cause of unintentional farm injury deaths in Australia for the past four years, according to Tony Lower, an associate professor at the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety at the University of Sydney. Masiakos and Baddour’s expertise can help guide Australia’s efforts to regulate ATVs similarly to how they are regulated in Massachusetts.
Since Sean’s Law was enacted in 2010, no children under 14 have been killed in ATV accidents and the number of brain injuries in children under 16 has been reduced by half to about 17 per year. The number of emergency room visits due to ATV injuries in children under 14 has decreased by 45 percent, while injury rates in people over 25 haven’t changed. In addition, the law has saved Massachusetts taxpayers about $68 million per year and has made Massachusetts the only state to set age requirements for riding ATVs and to raise penalties for illegal ridership.
“When I looked into the statistics before Sean’s Law was brought into effect, I realized this was a significant problem. In the U.S., there were 47,000 injuries per year in children under 16 and about 2,000 deaths per year,” said Masiakos. “Sean was one child who died and he was the inspiration for me wanting to help hundreds more who become involved in ATV accidents.”
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