Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, an Olympic gold medalist, is working to regain feeling below the waist after an ATV rolled over her earlier this summer.
Van Dyken-Rouen was an Olympic swimmer who won four gold medals at the 1996 Olympics. She was the first American woman ever to win four gold medals in one Olympics, and she went on to win two more at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. She once swam the 100-meter butterfly in under 60 seconds, according to USA Today.
Van Dyken-Rouen suffered a spinal cord injury in the ATV rollover accident that left her paralyzed below the waist. She underwent treatment and rehabilitation at Craig Hospital, a specialty center for spinal cord and brain injuries, until she was released this month. At a news conference, she told reporters that she experiences tingling sensations in her legs, which gives her hope that she could one day walk again.
The Olympian shared optimism and hope for the future after her stint in recovery and rehab.
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“I’m a thousand times better. Physically…and mentally as well,” Van Dyken-Rouen told members of the media on the day of her release. “There’s been a lot of tears shed for sure. This is not easy and I don’t want to portray the fact that because I have a smile on my face, it really is easy. It’s really not.”
Van Dyken-Rouen plans to advocate for spinal cord injury awareness down the road.
All-terrain vehicles, like the one that rolled over on Van Dyken-Rouen, can cause serious and even catastrophic injuries for riders. The Consumer Product Safety Commission received initial reports of 353 ATV-related fatalities in 2012 and 554 deaths in 2011. These numbers are a decrease from the 718 ATV-related fatalities in 2009, but the vehicles continue to spell danger for many Americans. Approximately one quarter of all ATV-related deaths are children under 16 years of age — accounting for 2,944 deaths between 1982 and 2012.
Approximately 107,900 people were treated at emergency departments for ATV-related injuries in 2012 in the U.S. More than 26,000 of these emergency room visits were for children under 16 years old. Approximately one quarter of ATV-related injuries in 2012 were diagnosed as contusions or fractures.
According to Consumer Product Safety Commission data, the most commonly injured body parts in ATV accidents are:
- The arm (29 percent)
- The head or neck (27 percent)
- The torso (22 percent)
- The leg (21 percent)
ATV riding is at its peak during the summer months, and the most injuries are treated between May and September. ATV riding is most popular in the following ten states:
- California (547 deaths in 27 years)
- Texas (535 deaths)
- Pennsylvania (494 deaths)
- West Virginia (481 deaths)
- Kentucky (459 deaths)
- Florida (432 deaths)
- Tennessee (386 deaths)
- New York (359 deaths)
- North Carolina (348 deaths)
- Michigan (333 deaths)
The largest percentage of ATV accidents happen while the rider was on paved surfaces (33 percent). The Consumer Product Safety Commission urges riders to stay off paved roads and use extreme caution when crossing one.