As Scooter Popularity Soars, So Do Injuries
"Serious injuries are the ones I'm worried about, when kids are running into cars or hooking the scooters on the back of a bus, or bike, or car," Wiebe says.
Maggie Huey, RN, director of emergency services at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, echoes Wiebe's sentiments. "We're seeing a number of scooter injuries, but it hasn't reached the proportion of bicycle accidents yet," she tells WebMD. "We've had 39 so far this year, but as the prevalence of the scooters goes up, so will the injuries."
Most of the youngsters who come to Cook for treatment after a scooter accident have been injured because they aren't wearing protective gear and/or they are not old enough to be "proficient at operating" the scooters, Huey says.
"The scooters and wheels are smaller than the older versions that were popular when I was a kid," Huey recalls. "They are lighter and faster; that's how they're advertised, and that's what the kids want. But they are so fast the kid doesn't have time to jump off before a crash occurs."
A big problem is that kids can't control the scooters and they even run over smaller children because they can't stop. In addition, youngsters ride the little sliver of metal over rough pavement. "They have to stay away from pavement that has grooves and cracks and bumps; scooters don't handle that well," Huey says. She recalls one child who was injured when the cement pavement merged into a bricked area - when the scooter hit it, "the kid went head over heels."
Angela Mickalide, PhD, program director for the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, agrees that control is a problem. "Parents have a false sense of security because the scooters have handlebars and they are low to the ground. They think that because they have handlebars, [the scooters] are easy to control," she says.
Huey, like Wiebe, has seen mostly fractures, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and some minor head injuries. They've had no deaths -- so far.
And Mickalide says that dentists are reporting lots of mouth and tooth injuries in youngsters who fall against the handlebars.
Huey and Wiebe say when children are injured on the scooters because they weren't wearing helmets and knee and elbow pads, their parents seem to have a "it won't happen to my child" attitude -- until it does.
"That's an appropriate and expected attitude for a child, but not for an adult," Huey says.
Wiebe says that "you can't make a kid live in a bubble," but he and Huey agree that children must wear protective padding and head protection. They also say that children under 8 should not ride a scooter without supervision of a responsible teenager or adult and that the area where they ride should be restricted -- never including the street. Huey also suggests that children aged 5 and under shouldn't ride the scooters at all because they don't have the coordination or strength to handle them.