The exciting new phenomena of “hoverboarding” has made hoverboards one of the most popular technological “toys” on the market today. Intended for agile adolescents, its appeal has also drawn parents and other adults nostalgic for those days gone by.
The technology of the hoverboard, known as a smartboard or balance board as well, doesn’t actually create a hover but rather a forward and backward motion on a sideways skateboard of sorts, with either a large single center wheel or two smaller ones at each end. It is automated, can reach a formidable speed of 16 mph and relies on body movement for navigation. It is basically a hands free, self-balancing electric scooter.
They have become the vehicle of choice for students travelling around campus and preteens maneuvering around the house and down the street to visit friends. They light up, are stealth quiet, move as fast as one’s imagination …. and leave hands free for any other activity desired on the fly.
Unfortunately, while the mainstream hoverboard never actually leaves the ground, its ability to send riders airborne is causing increasing concern.
In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported receiving dozens of hoverboard-related injuries from across the United States. Houston hospitals have also reported in a recent Associated Press article seeing a sharp increase in the number of hoverboard accidents sending adult and young riders alike to the ER and urgent care clinics.
Colleges are not only restricting their use on campus, as a result of the injury risk (to the user and passers by) but also the fire hazard their electrical system poses. The hoverboard fire hazard is covered extensively in other hoverboard reports.
Among the most common musculoskeletal injuries seen from hoverboard use include concussions, fractures, contusions and abrasions.
While most frequently seen in sports such as football and soccer, concussions are increasingly reported in hoverboard accidents. With no recommended safety wear, the speed and maneuverability of the device is resulting in high impact falls and collisions – resulting in concussions. The primary symptoms of a concussion include:
- Trouble concentrating, feeling “foggy”
- Delayed reaction times
- Dizziness, lightheadedness
- Sensitivity with bright lights or loud sounds
If a concussion is suspected, an evaluation should be conducted by a physician and hoverboard and other balancing activities should be avoided.
Wrist fractures are among the most common types of fractures seen in hoverboard accidents – distal radius fractures among the most common type of wrist fracture. This is often the result of breaking a fall or harsh impact with an outstretched arm. Other hoverboard fractures and dislocations have been seen in the fingers. Symptoms of a fracture or dislocation can be evident with extreme pain, swelling and slight disfigurement or subtle with only slight swelling and pain.
Most wrist fractures and finger fractures and dislocations can be treated nonsurgically, depending on the severity of the fracture or dislocation. A splint or other bracing may be indicated, along with anti-inflammatory medication and rest/refrain from extracurricular activity.
Collisions causing contusions and abrasions are frequently reported on hoverboards in the absence of safety gear. While most are minor cuts and scraps, some may result in open wounds requiring stiches, while potentially damaging nerves and other soft tissue. Swollen, discolored injuries lasting more than a month should be further evaluated by a physician.
Preventing Hoverboard Injuries
The lack of safety standards and recommended safety gear/wear is a concern among hoverboard retailers and healthcare providers alike. But, parents do not have to wait until such recommendations are established. If a hoverboard is in your family’s future, take the proper precautions. As with any sport, safety gear recommended or not, will provide a bit of assurance.
Cyclists travelling at much less speeds not only have both hands and legs navigating a two-wheeled structure designed for the road, but also helmets, gloves, shoes and other gear designed for safety and the sport. This is also true of rollerbladers and skateboarders. Invest in the safety of your hoverboard rider and purchase protective safety gear.
Help young riders understand the potential risks for injury and encourage that they err on the side of caution to avoid the ER.
Have fun and be safe!