Treadmills: The healthy danger in your home

TreadmillIt is mid morning in the pediatric ER and I greet a distressed mother carrying a frightened young child with a hand wrapped in bandages.

“What happened?” I ask.

Sadly, I can tell by her work-out clothes and her own scrapes that I already know her answer. There are many variations to the story that led to these injuries, and this could be any mom with any child. The one common factor is the treadmill.

Treadmills are a great item to own and can be part of a healthy lifestyle and training program. The issue is that they are a piece of heavy machinery that take concentration, balance, and experience to use properly and safely.  Every family I have ever encountered suffering from a treadmill injury has been shocked when I tell them that these types of injuries are seen quite commonly, tens of thousands per year nationally. The look of, “Why didn’t I know that?” says everything.

The most common types of injuries we see are usually from mobile infants and toddlers reaching, crawling of climbing onto a moving belt to reach a parent or older sibling. Small fingers and hands will quickly get caught in the belt mechanism resulting in removal of skin and muscles, serious burns, fractures, amputations, and other injuries. Children can also be thrown from the equipment, resulting in larger fractures or concussions. Sometimes, the parent will be injured as well, losing balance as their child reaches for them, startles them, or as they react to the injury of their child as it is occurring.

So how do you stay healthy and safe?

  1. Keep young children out of the reach of the treadmill when in use. Baby gates and playpens can help you maintain your distance from tiny hands and curious feet.
  2. Teach proper use to older children and teens and discuss the dangers. Never allow a school age child to use the treadmill unsupervised. Never use it a toy or game. Never allow more then one person on at a time.
  3. Keep the treadmill unplugged and/or remove the emergency safety key and store separately to keep immature but savvy youngsters from using the device without appropriate supervision or while a younger child is in the vicinity.
  4. Read all the manufactures safety information.
  5. Accelerate the belt slowly and hold rails while starting and stopping. Do not try to hop on and off the belt to drink water, tie a shoe, etc. while the belt is moving at more then a walk.
  6. Minimize distraction. Keep all objects of interest directly in front of you, such as a water bottle, magazine, TV, or smart phone. Turning around and reaching for things is a recipe for disaster.

Treadmills and other home exercise equipment are very useful tools for fitness and health but need to be respected for the large machines that they are and used safely.

Happy exercising and best wishes with your New Year’s resolutions!

Kirstin Lee, M.D. About Kirstin Lee, M.D.

Kirstin Abel Lee, M.D. is a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and an Instructor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. She received her undergraduate education at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the Washington University School of Medicine. Kirstin completed her residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She is board certified in Pediatrics and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Her interests include healthy living for children and families, emergency preparedness, and medical ethics. She is the mother of one boy age 2 years and enjoys cooking, running, and time with friends and family.

Connect with Dr. Kirstin Lee on Facebook: ChildrensMomDocs and.

Comments

  1. Thanks, Dr. Lee! We got rid of our treadmill last year and replaced it with a much more kid-safe elliptical.

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