Hoverboards continue to cause injuries

Riding a hoverboard with a big bear on his back, 19-year-old JR Lara of Bellmawr heads south on the Black Horse Pike just after 12:30 am on November 30, 2016.

Emergency room doctors are urging parents to make sure their kids are wearing helmets, elbow pads and wrist pads when using hoverboards and skateboards. There were an estimated 26,854 hoverboard and 121,398 skateboard injuries treated in emergency departments in the U.S. between 2015 and 2016, found a Pediatrics study released online today.

Researchers looked at hoverboard and skateboard injuries data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Skateboards have a large rider population as they have been around for more than seven decades. Since hoverboards were introduced to the consumer market in 2015, we continue to see injuries from this toy in our pediatric ED at St. Christopher’s to this day.

Hoverboards – a two-wheeled electric board – requires riders to maintain balance while they pick up speed and glide around.  They can be dangerous and the growing frequency of injuries is cause for concern. Unfortunately, the safety issues with the toy may not be widely known. This study and the stress of discussing injury prevention with parents and children is important, as not a great deal of research has been conducted around this relatively new toy.

The study found the highest number of hoverboard injuries occurred among 12-year-old boys. The body parts most frequently injured for hoverboard and skateboard riders were the wrist, forearm, and head, and the most common injuries found were fractures, contusions or bruises, and strains and sprains. Finger injuries are unique to hoverboards since they can get caught in the wheel.

It is interesting to note that skateboard injuries occurred more in streets, whereas a majority of hoverboard injuries happened inside the home. Few if any of the children injured on hoverboards were wearing protective gear. Although only approximately 3 percent of patients with injuries from these toys were admitted to the hospital, other injuries are still to be taken seriously due to the frequency they occur. Hoverboard injuries affect boys and girls, and most injuries occur in school-age children and teens.

In my experience, I’ve treated many children of various ages with skateboard and hoverboard related injuries, including sprains, concussions and fractures. It’s concerning to see children coming in with injuries of this kind, regardless of what toy was the reason of the injury. My advice to parents would be to choose a safer toy for children to play with.

Despite the safety concerns discussed in this study and from medical professionals, there are many families that will continue to use hoverboards. If you and your children decide to play with hoverboards, a conversation about injury prevention is important and consider taking the following precautions:

Protective gear

Very few patients I treat for hoverboard injuries are wearing protective gear at the time of the accident. I recommend children wear a helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads. As riders are falling from standing height, wrists often soften the blow.

Survey the riding zone

As mentioned above, many hoverboard injuries happen in homes. Try designating a “riding zone” in a home that is clear of any large objects. It is highly recommended to avoid riding in the kitchen, especially while there could be dangerous surroundings such as boiling water or sharp countertops. Certain cities forbid individuals from riding hoverboards in public areas, so check your local regulations.

Do your research

You most likely have heard the popular saying “knowledge is power.” Conduct research before purchasing this toy from the multiple manufacturers available. In addition, stay updated on the most recent recalls and safety guidelines, as many toys on the market are constantly evolving.

If a child is injured, don’t hesitate to promptly seek medical attention. For more information on the toys and other consumer products, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s official website.