Study: Golf cart-related injuries on the rise in Horry County

Updated: Jul. 10, 2017 at 7:49 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach doctors are concerned about the growing number of golf cart-related injuries happening on the Grand Strand.

A newly published report from a team of doctors at Grand Strand Medical Center lays out who is more likely to be injured while riding a golf cart and why.

The report, published in the American Surgeon, is titled Golf cart-related injuries: A community at risk

Golf carts are becoming increasingly popular, providing low-cost, energy-efficient transportation. That means they're no longer simply used on traditional golf courses.

As a result, doctors said the number of injuries are increasing as well, especially since Horry County, particularly Myrtle Beach, has more people using golf carts for vacation and recreational use.

According to the report, there are 31,740 golf carts actively registered in Horry County, which includes Myrtle Beach.

"We've seen an increase in the golf cart-related injuries," said Dr. Antonio Pepe, one of the article's authors.

Pepe said the data evaluated is gathered from golf cart-related injuries over a 32-month period.  Approximately 75 percent of the golf cart-related injuries identified required hospital admission. Of those, 49 percent were male and 51 percent were female, with ages ranges from 2 to 80.

"More importantly, and more dramatically, we've seen a lot of head-related injuries," Pepe said. "These vary from minor to severe concussions, to severe brain injuries, mild concussion and moderate brain injury, and even severe brain injury."

The report said the most common location was the public street, and falling out of moving golf carts was the most common mechanism, followed by rollover and golf carts being struck by a motor vehicle.

Keely Muertos, injury prevention coordinator for GSMC, said people don't understand the dangers of golf carts.

"Unlike motor vehicles, golf carts actually don't have a means of keeping you in the vehicle and they lack a lot safety features," Muertos said. "There's a lot of open air, there's no doors to keep you in, usually you just have a windshield, so it's very common that people can be propelled out of the golf cart if they're in an accident."

The report says 13 percent of patients required intensive care unit admission.

Muertos says people shouldn't have children sitting in their lap while riding, or on the back of a golf cart, because many of the carts do not have seat beats.

"A lot of the back seats have a rear-facing section, and it's harder to hold on to the back. If you have a young child on board, the best place for them to be is ideally in between two adults," Muertos said.

Alcohol is one of the major risk factors for golf cart injuries.

"For some reason, there's a misconception that may be because it's a little bit slower-speed vehicle, you are not at great of risk of injury," Muertos said. "That's not the case at all."

The report stated that patients treated were screened for alcohol and nearly 40 percent had evidence of alcohol intoxication.

Pepe said of those evaluated in the data collected, 27 percent were children under the age of 17.

"I've actually seen children not secured in these vehicles and it's very easy for them to fall out of these vehicles," Pepe said.

A driver must be at least 17 years old, with a valid driver's license, to operate a golf cart in the state of South Carolina.

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