Serious scooter-related injuries triple in four years

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 10, 2024 (HealthDay News) — When you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to get around town, what’s safer: a scooter or a bike?

A nationwide analysis of injuries associated with both suggests that cycling may be the safest way to get around.

UCLA researchers report that the number of scooter-related injuries in the U.S. nearly tripled between 2016 and 2020, with many severe enough to require orthopedic and plastic surgery. The cost of treating these injuries has increased fivefold, highlighting the financial strain on the healthcare system.

“Given the rise in hospitalizations and major surgeries for skateboarding-related injuries, it is critical to improve safety standards for riders,” said lead author Nam Young Cho, Jr., in a UCLA press release. “Advocating for improved infrastructure, including mandatory speed limits and dedicated lanes, is also vital to minimize risks to vehicles, scooter riders and pedestrians.”

In a study published Jan. 9 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, researchers used a federal government database to compare trends and impacts of injuries associated with skateboarding, scooters and bicycles. The database did not differentiate between electric and non-electric skateboards.

In total, approximately 93,000 patients were hospitalized with injuries during the study period (about 6,100 due to skateboarding).

About 27% of scooter users and 16% of cyclists were under 18 years of age.

Injuries increased during the winter months, with scooter-related injuries resulting in more major surgeries than bicycle-related injuries (56% vs. 48%). These included orthopedic surgery (89 vs. 48%); plastic surgery (85% vs. 85%); and leading operations (5% vs. 4%).

The study found that scooter riders were more likely to suffer long bone fractures and paralysis than cyclists, but both groups had the same risk of traumatic brain injury.

And these injuries were costly.

The annual cost of treating scooter-related injuries has risen sharply from approximately $6.6 million in 2016 to $35.5 million in 2020. The cost of bicycle-related injuries also increased from $307 million to $434 million.

The researchers noted that the database had little information about helmet use, whether there were multiple drivers, or whether there was substance use. They did not take into account the role of objects, other vehicles, terrain, speed, time of day and distance traveled.

Despite these limitations, researchers have raised concerns about increased patient injuries, hospitalizations, and financial burden.

“Progressive worsening injury severity in scooter-related incidents occurs in a significant proportion of patients requiring surgery and potentially having long-term (health problems),” they wrote. “Our findings are a call to action for healthcare leaders to be empowered to help prevent skateboard-related injuries and improve community safety.”

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information on cyclist safety.

SOURCE: UCLA Health Sciences, press release, January 9, 2023.

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