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Are two-wheeled boards too dangerous for kids?

Posted 10/1/2018 by Jerri Rose, MD
Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor,
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

When hoverboards hit the scene in 2015, they were an immediate success. Also known as self-balancing or two-wheeled boards, these toys can be a fun way to get around – but are they safe for kids?

Red self-balancing scooter on white background

Shortly after they debuted, several manufacturers started selling hoverboards that were never inspected for quality or safety. News reports started to surface of the motorized boards spontaneously catching on fire, causing burns. To date, more than 300 incidents of these devices overheating or catching fire have been reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

New hoverboards don’t carry the same fire risk that some used to. If you have an older model, visit CPSC.gov to see if there’s been a recall. All hoverboards should be compliant with the UL 2272 safety standard.

However, even if your child has one of the newest models, that doesn’t automatically mean it is safe. After all, two-wheeled boards can be difficult to balance on - and falls resulting in injuries are not at all uncommon.

A look at statistics

How often do these falls result in serious injury? A recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that about 26,854 children visited an emergency department with a hoverboard injury during 2015 and 2016. The average age of an injured child was 11. Boys were slightly more prone to present with injuries than girls (52 percent of the children seen were boys).

Children were most likely to injure their wrists, forearms and heads. The most common injuries were:

  • Fractures (40 percent)
  • Bruises (17 percent)
  • Strains/sprains (13 percent)

While hoverboards may be one of the newest toys, many other wheeled toys result in trips to the emergency department. During the same 2015 to 2016 time period, skateboards caused almost 121,400 injuries.

Practicing safety

Jerri Rose, MD

Jerri Rose, MD

How can you keep your kids safe when using any kind of wheeled toy? Here are some tips from Jerri Rose, MD, a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s:

  • Require children to wear protective gear, such as a helmet and wrist guards. “Parents should enforce a simple ‘no helmet, no riding’ policy for kids using wheeled toys including hoverboards, skateboards, scooters and bicycles,” says Dr. Rose.
  • Don’t allow them to ride in or near traffic.
  • If appropriate for the activity, enroll your child in lessons. Learning how to fall properly while skateboarding, for instance, can help children avoid serious injuries.
  • Read all the manufacturer directions, including any age or weight restrictions.
  • Don’t use any motorized toy that overheats.
  • Only use the charging cord that came with the product.
  • Make sure the wheeled device your child uses is free of debris and not worn out.

“If your child sustains a fall that results in loss of consciousness, change in behavior, seizure activity, severe headache, vomiting or swelling over the head, always seek medical attention promptly,” says Dr. Rose. “Wrist and ankle sprains can generally be treated with rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE) and over-the-counter analgesics such as ibuprofen. If there’s severe pain or swelling in the extremities after a fall, or if pain is not improving, it’s time to see a doctor.”

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