Hoverboard injuries sending thousands of kids to ERs

(Reuters Health) - Hoverboards, the motorized self-balancing scooters that took the nation by storm a few years back, have sent thousands of kids to the emergency room, a new study suggests.

Soon after these flashy gadgets emerged as one of the hottest toys of 2015, incidents of batteries overheating and hoverboards bursting into flames prompted recalls. But burns accounted for just three injuries in the study, and two of these incidents involved crashing a hoverboard into a kitchen stove and getting doused with boiling water.

Instead, falls appeared to be the main culprit behind the estimated 26,854 hoverboard injuries in kids under 18 treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2015 and 2016.

As reported in Pediatrics, fractures accounted for 40 percent of the injuries, followed by contusions, sprains and strains. Most often, kids injured their wrist, forearm or head.

“Many of these injuries may be avoided with proper protective gear,” said lead study author Dr. Sean Bandzar, an emergency physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

“Parental supervision is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of injury, in addition to having children wear helmets and wrist pads,” Bandzar said by email.

Hoverboard injuries happened most often at home, the study found.

With skateboards, more than half of the estimated 121,398 injuries in 2015 and 2016 happened in the street.

Here, too, the wrist was the most commonly injured body part and fractures were the most common injuries.

Overall, only about three percent of the hoverboard and skateboard injuries were serious enough to require a hospital admission.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to show how skateboards or hoverboards cause injuries, and it also didn’t show what kids were doing or whether they wore any protective gear at the time of the accidents.

And because researchers lacked data on how often kids used skateboards or hoverboards, it was impossible to calculate injury rates based on the amount of use or how dangerous these activities are compared to other sports.

Still, the results add to the evidence that falls and fractures from hitting a hard surface are common injuries with hoverboards and skateboards, said Dr. Gary Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance in Columbus, Ohio.

“This is a well-known pattern seen for falls associated with many consumer products,” Smith, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“Starting in the pre-school years, children have enough strength and coordination to use their out-stretched arms to attempt to break their fall,” Smith added. “The force of their fall often causes a fracture in one of the bones in their forearm near the wrist.”

While all wheeled toys carry some injury risk, children can still benefit from using them and getting exercise outdoors, said David Schwebel, director of the Youth Safety Lab at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. But parents should supervise their kids, keep them away from roads, and insist all children wear helmets and other protective gear.

“If children refuse to wear helmets, parents should prohibit them from riding/skating,” Schwebel, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“It should be non-negotiable,” Schwebel added. “Parents also must set a good example and wear a helmet themselves when they bicycle or engage in other activities where helmets are recommended.”

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online March 26, 2018.