Health

Scooter safety highlighted in toy injury report

Foot-propelled scooters for children are one of the biggest drivers of a 40 per cent increase in toy injuries over 22 years in the U.S., a new study suggests.

Increase in ride-on toy injuries underscores need for prevention, pediatricians say

Foot-propelled scooters for children are one of the biggest drivers of a 40 per cent increase in toy injuries over more than two decades in the U.S., a new study suggests. 

A child’s job is to play and toys are their tools, says Dr. Gary Smith, an injury prevention researcher and director of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Smith used nationally representative data to examine trends in toy-related injuries in the U.S. from 1990 to 2011.

In 2011, a child was treated in an emergency department for a toy-related injury every three minutes, Smith and his team said in Monday’s online issue of the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

For children under three, the greatest hazard was the risk of choking on small toys or toy parts.

For those five to 17, riding toys such as foot-powered scooters, wagons and tricycles were associated with 42 per cent of the injuries.

"The increasing number and rate of toy-related injuries to children, especially those associated with ride-on toys, underscore the need for increased efforts to prevent these injuries," Smith, the study’s senior author and his team, concluded.

Foot-powered scooters first became popular in 2000.

Helmets advised

In the study, ride-on toys were three times more likely to be associated with a fracture or dislocation compared with other toys.

"We're looking at injuries of speed and arms and heads hitting concrete," said Pamela Fuselli, vice-president of knowledge transfer and stakeholder relations at Parachute, a Canadian charity that aims to prevent injuries.

Overall, the annual rate of injury rose almost 40 per cent during the 1990-2011 period, from about 19 per 100,000 to 26 per 100,000, the researchers found.

They findings highlight the need to increase efforts to prevent injuries associated with ride-on toys, especially nonmotorized scotters, they said.

 "Protective equipment, especially helmets, should be used with ride-on toys," the study’s authors recommended.

They acknowledged that the variety of toy types and prevention methods can be daunting to caregivers, but pointed to how better parental awareness was associated with reduced risk of choking on small toy parts.

Among younger children, part of the increase in injuries is also from other newer toys, such as ones with magnets and small batteries that pose choking hazards, Fuselli said. Magnets can attract inside a child's digestive system and lead to serious injuries.

Some other safety tips for parents and caregivers: 

  • Follow age restrictions and other manufacturer guidelines for all toys.
  • Examine toys for small parts that could be choking hazards.
  • Use riding toys on dry, flat surfaces away from vehicle traffic.
  • Closely supervise any child younger than age eight who is on a riding toy.
  • Have kids wear helmets, knee pads and elbow pads on scooters and other riding toys with wheels.
  • Check government toy recall websites such as healthycanadians.gc.ca or recalls.gov  to see if any toys have been recalled.

The Public Health Agency of Canada's database of 17 emergency departments showed that between April 2010 to March 2011, there were 2,761 cases of toy-related injuries. Of those, non-specific toys accounted for nearly 40 per cent of cases, followed by ride-on toys, including foot-powered scooters, at nearly 21 per cent.

"I think with scooters, there's probably an issue just like with skateboards or in-line skates, that there has to be a level of competency for the children that are using these," Fuselli said.

"We really want kids to be out, we want them to be active. We want them to be engaged in all of these activities. We just want to make sure that they're doing it safely and they're doing it in an age-appropriate way."

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