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Avoid Injuries when Riding a Scooter
By Dr. Sally Robinson and Dr. Keith Bly

Children usually waste no time in jumping on the latest fads in clothing, jewelry and especially toys. So when it comes to buying your children holiday and birthday presents, sometimes only "the" toy will do.

Right now, the new Razor-style aluminum scooters with small, low-friction, free-rolling wheels are definitely "it." Of course, they bear no more resemblance to the scooter of the '50s than a modern trail bike does to an old Schwinn. These new scooters are fast, unstable and unforgiving.

The scooters made their debut in late 1999, and accidents have kept pace with sales. In May of 2000, that month's scooter-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency rooms topped 500. In August, the one-month total reached 4,000, and by September figures hit a high of 9,000-an increase of almost 1,800 percent in five months.

One-fourth of these accidents happened to children less than 8 years of age. Ann Brown, chairwoman of the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), stresses that scooters are much too dangerous for children in this age group. For example, the body of the scooter is very low to the ground, making it unable to accommodate irregularities in pavement. As a result, raised areas in sidewalks can cause it to drag, throwing the rider forward over the handle. Another problem is that if the scooter hits a rough spot in the pavement, or a twig or a rock, the tiny wheels are stopped dead or driven sideways, again potentially causing the same type of accident.

While a good number of these accidents amount to no more than road burns and scrapes, fully one-third result in hand, wrist and arm fractures. Hands and arms are the first line of protection when a person falls. When they give way on pavement, statistics show that injuries to the head and face are the second most common.

One dilemma parents face is that the wrist guards designed for skaters make it impossible for small hands to grasp the handlebars. This could reduce kids' ability to control the scooters and thus actually cause more injuries than the wrist guards prevent.

Some companies are making "new fashioned" scooters with hand brakes and larger rubber tires that appear to be safer. You may be able to convince your child to accept one of those, but not many parents can successfully win a war of reason against a fad.

Regardless of the type of scooter you buy, the CPSC makes these recommendations:

" Have your child wear a helmet that meets CPSC standards, along with knee and elbow pads.
" Make sure children ride on smoothly paved surfaces away from traffic. Avoid streets, as well as surfaces covered with water, sand, gravel, leaves or dirt.
" Don't let children ride scooters at night.

Much of our job as parents is teaching our children skills they can use later in life, such as good manners and self-control. In this way we give them the best start possible. As parents we should also remember that some fun activities can be quite dangerous. And often, our children will think they are more fun because they are dangerous. So be sure to also teach your children the value of protecting themselves when engaging in sports and other physical activities-because getting seriously hurt is never fun.

Dr. Sally Robinson is Professor of Pediatrics, and Dr. Keith Bly is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Children's Hospital. For more information, visit: www.utmb.edu


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