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As Scooter Popularity Soars, So Do Injuries


WebMD Health News

Dec. 14, 2000 -- Medical personnel and government agencies fear that this holiday season may not be so merry because of a small, lightweight aluminum contraption that has youngsters' eyes all aglow. The CDC on Thursday issued findings that in the first 10 months of this year, almost 28,000 people have been injured on unpowered scooters and two people have died.

In September alone, more than 8,600 people were treated in emergency rooms around the country due to crashes involving the two-wheeled vehicles. This was 18 times more than the number reported by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission sources just a few months earlier. The agency reported recently that as of mid-November, more than 30,000 scooter-related injuries were seen at the nation's emergency medical facilities.

Because of the skyrocketing popularity of the new-age scooters -- now seen everywhere from television and newspaper advertisements to the aisles of your local market -- the agencies, along with medical experts, believe that the injury rate will dramatically increase even more as wrapping paper is ripped open over the next few weeks.

In fact, the Toy Manufacturers of America says the plaything was the best seller in September, and overall this year, Americans will buy between 2 and 5 million of the gizmos. In contrast, in 1999, sales in this country were virtually zero.

The safety commission and the CDC report 29% of the injuries reported around the country were fractures and dislocations, 70% of those to the arm or hand. Cuts contributed 24%, cuts and bruises 22%, and strains/sprains 14%. An adult died when he fell and struck his head while showing his daughter how to ride the scooter, and a 6-year-old boy was killed after he rode into traffic and a car hit him. The commission says that 85% of all the reported injuries on scooters have been to children under the age of 15.

Just last week, the commission issued a recall announcement for two models of scooters, the Kickin' Mini-Scooters by Kent International Inc. and the Racer X20 by Kash 'N Gold. Both of these had a problem with the handlebars separating, causing the rider to lose control and fall, according to the statement.

Medical experts say that it doesn't take a design flaw to cause injuries on the souped-up version of its 1950s rather benign wide, usually red, metal predecessor.

"I'm nervous that with the Christmas season coming and it being one of the hottest selling items, it's going to become a major problem," says Robert Wiebe, medical director of Children Medical Center of Dallas' emergency department. "They're fast, and little kids are riding them. It will become as much of a problem as bikes."

He tells WebMD that currently his medical staff sees about one scooter injury every couple of weeks, usually the worst being arm and wrist fractures. Wiebe suspects there may be more injuries in the city's outlying areas. He also believes the seriousness of the accidents also will increase as the popularity of the item does.

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