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From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
January 3, 2001

Unpowered Scooter-Related Injuries—United States, 1998-2000

JAMA. 2001;285(1):36-37. doi:10.1001/jama.285.1.36-JWR0103-2-1

MMWR. 2000;49:1108-1110

1 figure omitted

Injuries associated with unpowered scooters have increased dramatically since May 2000.1 These scooters are a new version of the foot-propelled scooters first popular during the 1950s. Most scooters are made of lightweight aluminum with small, low-friction wheels similar to those on in-line skates. They weigh <10 pounds and fold for easy portability and storage. Up to 5 million scooters are expected to be sold in 2000, an increase from virtually zero last year (Consumer Product Safety Commission [CPSC], unpublished data, 2000). This report summarizes the results of a descriptive analysis of scooter-related injuries during the past 34 months and provides recommendations to reduce these injuries.

CPSC and CDC analyzed preliminary data from CPSC's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) from January 1998 through October 2000 and the Injury and Potential Injury Incident File (IPII) during January-October 2000. NEISS is a probability sample of 100 U.S. hospitals with 24-hour emergency departments (EDs) and more than six beds. NEISS collects data from these hospitals on all persons seeking treatment for consumer product-related injury in the hospitals' EDs. Estimates of injuries in the United States associated with specific consumer products or activities can be made from NEISS data. Data were weighted according to the probability of hospital selection in the NEISS sample to provide estimates for the U.S. population.2 IPII consists of anecdotal information reported to CPSC from many sources (e.g., coroners and medical examiners; newspaper reports; consumer complaints through the CPSC hotline or CPSC's World-Wide Web site; and referrals from federal, state, and local officials). NEISS was used to estimate scooter-related injuries, and IPII was used to identify scooter-related deaths. Because the new scooters were introduced in large numbers into the United States market in 2000, the 1998 and 1999 data relate to the older versions of scooters.

During January-October 2000, an estimated 27,600* (95% confidence limits [CL] = 22,190-33,010) persons sought ED care for scooter-related injuries. In August, September, and October 2000, the estimated number of injuries requiring ED care was 6,529 (95% CL = 4,610-8,450), 8,628 (95% CL = 6,090-11,170), and 7,359 (95% CL = 5,200-9,520), respectively; October data are incomplete and may change slightly as additional injury reports are filed. The estimated number of injuries during August-October represents 80% of the estimated total number of injuries for all of 2000. Each of the preceding 3 months also exceeded the 12-month total for either 1998 or 1999. The estimated number of injuries seen in EDs in September 2000 was nearly 18 times higher than in May 2000.

Approximately 85% of persons treated in EDs were children aged <15 years, and 23% were aged <8 years; two thirds were male. The most common type of injury was a fracture or dislocation (29%), of which 70% were to the arm or hand. Other injuries included lacerations (24%), contusions/abrasions (22%), and strains/sprains (14%). Forty-two percent of all injuries occurred to the arm and hand, 27% to the head and face, and 24% to the leg and foot.

Two persons have died while using a scooter. An adult fell and struck his head while showing his daughter how to ride the scooter. A 6-year-old boy rode into traffic and was struck by a car.

Reported by:

GW Rutherford, Jr, MS, R Ingle, MA, Consumer Product Safety Commission. Div of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC.

CDC Editorial Note:

The findings in this report demonstrate the rapid increase in injuries associated with riding the new lightweight, folding, unpowered scooters, which are a fast-growing activity in the United States. Because these scooters are a recent phenomenon, scientific data about the efficacy of safety equipment to protect against scooter-related injuries are not available. However, lessons learned from similar recreational activities (e.g., in-line skating) can guide users in adopting reasonable safety precautions, such as wearing protective gear.

On the basis of data from in-line skating and bicycling, many of these injuries might have been prevented or reduced in severity had protective equipment been worn. Helmets can prevent 85% of head injuries,3 elbow pads can prevent 82% of elbow injuries, and knee pads can prevent 32% of knee injuries.4 Although wrist guards are effective in preventing injuries among in-line skaters, the protection they provide against injury for scooter riders is unknown because wrist guards may make it difficult to grip the scooter handle and steer it.

The public health community can be proactive and support efforts to decrease scooter-related injury in children by increasing awareness among parents and health-care providers of the injury potential and the need for safety measures when using scooters. Many children may not be prepared developmentally to handle the multitask challenges they may experience while riding a scooter. Changes in the product and rider behavior also may make riding scooters safer. The mechanisms and circumstances of scooter-related injury require further research.

On the basis of evidence of injury prevention effectiveness for other related activities, the following recommendations may help prevent scooter-related injuries:

  • Wear a helmet that meets the standard established by CPSC;

  • Use knee and elbow pads;

  • Ride scooters on smooth, paved surfaces without traffic, and avoid streets and surfaces with water, sand, gravel or dirt;

  • Do not ride scooters at night; and

  • Young children should not use scooters without close supervision.

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Article Information
*Estimates are based on the approximate range at the 95% confidence level of relative sampling error. For this analysis, the corresponding relative sampling error for the estimated number of injuries during January-October is 0.1.
References
1.
Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Electronic Injury Surveillance System [computer file].  Washington, DC Consumer Product Safety Commission, November2000;
2.
Kessler  ESchroeder  T The NEISS sample (design and implementation).  Washington, DC Consumer Product Safety Commission October1998;
3.
Thompson  RSRivara  FPThompson  DC A case-control study of the effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets. N Engl J Med. 1989;3201361- 7Article
4.
Schieber  RABranche-Dorsey  CMRyan  GWRutherford  GWStevens  JAO'Neil  J Risk factors for injuries from in-line skating and the effectiveness of safety gear. N Engl J Med. 1996;3351630- 5Article
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