Remember hoverboards? The big fad of 2015 was essentially a Segway with the handlebars cut off, and it caused a lot of injuries last year. In the United States alone, 15,754 people went to the emergency room because of a hoverboard mishap. That surprising figure comes from a paper published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine last month, and it could pave the way for better education, which might help you avoid flinging yourself off your latest holiday present.
It feels like this time last year, the internet was awash with YouTube clips of showoffs injuring themselves trying to do backflips off their new toy. And while that’s true, there wasn’t really a lot of actual data to back up this assertion. Inverse caught up with paper co-author Dr. Sean Bandzar, resident physician and emergency medicine at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, who explained that this new research could help professionals write educational materials for patients.
Inverse: So this is still something manufacturers can improve on?
Bandzar: Yes. This is still something that manufacturers can improve on, and the users, so we can’t really delineate that from the study, but I’m sure that’s something they could definitely improve on. Both, also, users for education and things like that.
So here’s maybe a bit more to be done teaching people how to use them
Maybe how to use them, and educating families about the risks, what type of injuries can come from these devices and things like that.
Looking at the rate of injuries, I’m noticing a fifth of injuries were from the wrist. I’m guessing that’s from when people fall off and try to correct themselves?
Yes, so what I would think that happens is, these devices are these two wheel motorized vehicles, and so whenever people hit like a rock and fall over, the likelihood of you breaking your fall is using your wrists. It’s kind of like when you go running and you fall over, you outstretch your hands and use your wrists to try and break your fall.
Is there anything from the study that suggested ways hoverboard manufacturers might be able to improve safety?
The only thing I could say would be, as I’m an emergency physician, I couldn’t really comment on the manufacturers part, but from my standpoint I think educating patients and families that come into the emergency department with these type of injuries about some of the risks of using these devices, just making sure they’re aware of what kind of injuries can result from these toys. There’s no literature, actually, no studies that analyze the type of injuries relating to hoverboards, as they’re relatively now. From a clinician’s standpoint, we don’t know what are the common types of injuries, or we don’t know any of that until the study.
Another thing was children represented 49 percent of injuries, so that brings in a whole different discussion that involves making sure they’re wearing helmets. Head injuries are very common in kids. So protective gear, and making sure they have parental supervision, if you do let your children use these toys.
Were there any surprising results that stood out to you?
The one thing that stood out was that children were more likely to suffer from head injuries than adults, and so the significance of that is making sure these children are wearing helmets using these devices, given that we have objective data showing that. They may not be the most common diagnoses, but they could be the most detrimental. A head injury could potentially lead to a bleed, or fracture of the skull, that could be very detrimental compared to a fracture of the bone where you can make splints or casts.
So this data can be used for education, so what we need to do is educate the people that come in with these injuries?
Exactly. So by wearing gear you can protect yourself from these injuries. You may not be able to completely eliminate any kind of injury, but you will be able to protect yourself from some kind of head bleed, or a very serious wrist fracture.