We're smack dab in the middle of ATV riding season and with it comes lots of fun, campground reservations, and sometimes a visit to the emergency room.

Riding an ATV is pretty straight forward and doesn't require the balancing skill needed to race around on dirt bikes. It's why lots of families opt for quads because of their ease of use for the uninitiated. However, it also comes with a mirage of safety because of the four wheels. ATVs pose just as big a risk of injury as their two-wheeled counterparts but riders often forego the necessary (let's just say required) riding gear because of the perceived harmlessness of operating what amounts to a small car.

ATVs, not to be confused with a UTV, don't have a roll cage or seat belts. It's easy to think you can simply jump on an ATV and ride like a seasoned pro. Yes, it's actually that easy but it's also really easy to get hurt. Think of an ATV as a potential bucking bronco every time you ride because if it wants to you'll find yourself off to the side somewhere nursing wounds while your no longer faithful steed is grazing in the woods. Plenty of YouTube videos attest to this.

Whether you race or trail ride ATVs, injuries can happen

If you're a current rider, planning to buy a round of quads for the family or setting off somewhere that offers ATV rentals keep in mind the following common ATV injuries and dress for the crash:

  1. Concussions

If you're around the scene much you might notice a lot of quad riders don't wear helmets. Big mistake. Wear a helmet at all times no matter the speed.

  1. Broken bones
Pick a bone. You can get thrown off, run over by or toppled on by your own ATV.

  1. Spinal cord injuries

Don't let the four wheels fool you. When you're on a straight and level plain, yes an ATV is pretty stable, but when courage takes over and you want to traverse hills or more challenging paths it's not unusual for an ATV to roll over especially if you're not adept at handling one. Roll overs result in numerous injuries and broken necks not the least among them.

  1. Knee and Legs

When riding a dirt bike and you begin to tip over the most natural thing is to put your leg down. This is also the most natural thing when riding a quad that starts to tip over. Unfortunately, most if not all riders don't have the strength to push back on a 4-wheeler. Other times you're leg gets caught in the moving rear wheel yanking you off the seat and underneath. The ATV almost always wins.

  1. Internal Organs

Whether you're thrown off, run over, or toppled on a quad accident can result in serious internal injuries.

Finally, not to be morbid but like cars, ATV accidents sometimes result in death. According to a case study published by Texas EMS Magazine in the September/October 2011 issue, the number of children killed in ATV accidents increased by 88 percent in the prior 10 years.

None of this is meant to scare you but instead educate on the realities of riding ATVs and to reinforce the importance of wearing proper riding gear and protection. ATVs weigh 500 pounds or more and ride fast - that's the fun right? When used properly and exercised with caution quads offer a lifetime of enjoyment. But carelessness brings consequences.

Wear full riding gear whenever operating an ATV including a helmet, chest protector, goggles, boots and gloves. Ride at your own pace and if quad riding turns into a hobby try taking lessons to increase your skills and so you know what to do in the event of a tip over or other spill.

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