E-scooter injuries in children rising

Electric scooter injuries in children are becoming more common and increasingly severe, new American research has found.

Of children admitted to hospital for an e-scooter accident, one in ten had experienced a head injury such as concussion, skull fracture or internal bleeding. 

The research, believed to be the first study looking specifically at e-scooter injuries among children, was presented by Dr Harrison Hayward at the American Academy of Paediatrics 2022 national conference.

“The number of annual e-scooter injuries has increased from 2011 to 2020, likely due in some part to the rise in popularity of rideshare e-scooter apps,” says Hayward, an emergency medicine fellow at the Children’s National Hospital.

“Parents whose children are riding e-scooters need to know how best to be safe. To that end, helmets are a must, since over 10% of the reported cases were head injuries.”

Hayward told Cosmos, “children should also be riding e-scooters alone and not with a second rider. When we looked at injuries in patients age 0 to 4 years, about 80% of them were riding with a second, older person,”.

More than half of the injuries requiring hospital admission involved fractures. The most common injuries were broken arms, making up 27% of admissions. Other common injuries were minor abrasions (22%) and cuts or lacerations requiring stitches (17%). 

The average age for injuries requiring hospital admission was 11.1 years.

The analysis draws on emergency department data from 1,446 e-scooter injuries involving children from a publicly available database of consumer product related injuries. The database, called the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System collates information reported by more than 100 hospitals in the United States. 

Hayward’s research found the proportion of e-scooter injuries among children requiring hospital admission is increasing, rising from 4.2% in 2011 to 12.9% in 2020.

For comparison, he says, approximately 4 to 5% of bicycle injuries involving children result in hospitalisation.

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Electric scooters have existed for decades, but their use has risen in recent years due to ride share programs and as a more climate friendly mode of travel than cars.

In Australia, the total e-scooter fleet is estimated at around 250,000 vehicles. Ride share e-scooter platforms in Australia generally require riders to be 18 years or older.

E-scooter regulations vary by state and territory. For example, in Victoria, only commercial hire e-scooters can be used. Privately owned e-scooters cannot be used on public roads or spaces including footpaths or bicycle paths. 

Australian media reports have linked seven deaths to e-scooters, including the recent death of a 15-year-old boy in Queensland. 

In the United States, an estimated 136 million trips are taken on e-scooters annually. The rise in use has been accompanied by public health risks, as highlighted by recent studies.

In 2021, a study of all e-scooter injuries (both adults and children) in the United States using the same database found head and neck injuries made up around 28% of all e-scooter injuries reported between January 2009 and December 2019. The research by Henry Ford is published in Laryngoscope.

While one study has suggested e-scooter injury rates in Los Angeles may exceed other modes of transport, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of unintentional child injuries causing death in the United States and Australia.

Compared to injuries sustained riding a bicycle, a Norwegian study found e-scooter injuries were more likely to occur at night time, without a helmet and involve alcohol. 

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