Toppled TVs can cause serious harm to young children, neurosurgeon warns

Falling TVs can cause more severe neck and head injuries among young children, especially toddlers, says a Canadian neurosurgeon who offers tips to prevent harm.

Children aged 1 to 3 the age group to most frequently injure head and neck from falling TVs

Falling TVs are causing more severe neck and head injuries among young children, especially toddlers, says a Canadian neurosurgeon who offers tips to prevent harm.

Injuries to children from toppled TVs have become more frequent during the last decade, according to a review published in Tuesday's issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.  

The injuries can be severe and even fatal. They are likely to become more common as TVs increase in size and prices come down, said study author Dr. Michael Cusimano of the neurosurgery department at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

There's an often unrecognized hazard lurking in most Canadian homes that poses a potentially deadly threat to young children: the big-screen TV. (Dorel Juvenile Group/Associated Press)

Cusimano and co-author Nadine Parker reviewed 29 studies from seven countries focusing on TV-related head and neck injuries.

Of all age groups that experienced TV-toppling incidents, those aged one to three years old most frequently suffered injuries to the head and neck. Often the injuries occurred when toddlers climbed onto furniture to reach a toy or bumped into unstable TV bases.

Cusimano said TVs are often placed on high furniture such as dressers, which aren't designed to hold TVs, or aren't properly secured to the wall.

His injury prevention tips include:

  • Educate children, parents, teachers and medical professionals about the dangers of toppling TVs.
  • Avoid placing toys or remotes on top of TVs.
  • Have manufacturers include instructions on how to safely secure TVs to walls or bases.
  • Place TVs away from the edge of a stand.
  • Set regulations on the kinds of support furniture and wall mounts used for TVs.
  • Establish regulations for anchoring TVs to the ground or wall.
  • Have manufacturers produce shorter, more stable TV stands.

In the U.S., the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 19,200 TV-related injuries from 2008 to 2010, up from 16,500 between 2006 and 2008.

Toddlers' heights are a disadvantage when TVs fall. Since they are often shorter than most TV stands, their head is usually the place of contact and injury.

"Television-toppling injuries can be easily prevented; however, the rates of injuries do not reflect a sufficient level of awareness, nor do they reflect an acceptable effort from an injury prevention perspective," the study's authors said.

The researchers found that 84 per cent of reported injuries occurred at home. Of these, three-fourths were not witnessed by adult caregivers.

While the TV-related injuries may not all be severe, it's important to seek medical care for head injuries because cases that need emergency medical attention benefit from fast, organized emergency responses, the researchers said. 

According to the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, Sick Kids treated 33 children who had been injured by falling TVs between 2011 and 2013. Twelve of the children were admitted, 16 had head injuries and 18 had fractures, including skull fractures.

With files from The Canadian Press


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