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Hoverboard Dangers and Safety Tips

Tuesday, Jan 19, 2016

A Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department physician writes about the risks of hoverboards and offers safety tips for their use.

Brenda Foley, MD is assistant Medical Director of Doylestown Hospital's Emergency Department, where hoverboard injuries are on the rise.

Perhaps you got one for Christmas. Maybe you gave one for Christmas. Or maybe you've just seen one around town. Nonetheless, it's hard to miss one of this year's most popular new toys . . . hoverboards.

Hoverboards are two-wheel motorized scooters similar to a Segway but without the handles. The self-balancing hoverboard moves forward, backward, and turns in response to your shift in body weight. Just a small adjustment will change the direction -- or cause it come to an abrupt stop. Hoverboards can reach a maximum speed of around 10 mph.

News outlets have reported about fires and burns from the spontaneous combustion of the lithium ion battery found in the device. As a result, most major airports have banned the use of hoverboards, and some other public areas, such as college campuses, have followed suit.

In addition to the risk of fire, hoverboards also put users at risk for other types of injury during routine use. Hoverboard-related injuries are sending people to ERs around the country. Locally, the Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department continues to see these injuries in our patients.

Most injuries related to hoverboards are orthopedic in nature, especially when the device suddenly stops or speeds up. When a person falls forward, it is typically a fall on an outstretched hand, and we are seeing injuries of the wrist, hand, and elbows.

With a fall backwards, patients may experience an injury to the elbow, or neck and spine. Some of these orthopedic injuries can be debilitating, requiring surgery and a prolonged recovery. In addition to orthopedic injuries, hoverboards have been linked to injuries of the head (concussion), skin (bruising and cuts) and even internal organs.

What can you do to prevent hoverboard-related injuries? See below for some guidelines and advice.

Hoverboard Safety Tips

  • Before getting onto a hoverboard, protect yourself. Wear a proper helmet (similar to when using a skateboard), as well as wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads.
  • Start slowly, especially when just learning how to use a hoverboard. Make sure you have something or someone to hold on to while getting used to operating it.
  • Hoverboard injuries can happen to people of any age, so don't be falsely reassured that as an adult, you may be able to maneuver it better than a child. ;In fact, hoverboard injuries in an adult tend to be more serious, given the speed and height of the fall.
  • Limit the ride to smooth, even surfaces. Even just a few millimeters of uneven surface can cause the hoverboard to stop abruptly, and often the rider continues to travel forward, causing a fall.
  • Do not ride the hoverboard near vehicular or pedestrian traffic (ex. streets or sidewalks).

--Brenda Foley, MD

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