The lowly tricycle can be a dangerous ride, sending more than 9,300 children to U.S. emergency rooms each year, a new study finds.
Kids 1 and 2 years old accounted for 52 percent of those tricycle-related ER visits in 2012-13, researchers found. Boys are injured more often than girls, and most injuries involve cuts, usually on the face.
“Parents need to take a good hard look at what their kids are playing on to make sure they don’t get injured,” said study co-author Dr. Hany Atallah, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Check the safety features and the age recommendations, he said.
Although no trike deaths were reported during the study period, the researchers said two dozen children died from tricycle injuries between 2005 and 2012. The deaths were due to falling or drowning.
For the study, published online in Pediatrics, the researchers analyzed data on tricycle injuries from 98 ERs in the United States for 2012-13. Among the other findings:
- Damage to organs, usually the head, was the most common injury among 3- and 5-year-olds.
- After fractured elbows, the most commonly fractured bones were in the arms and wrists.
- About 2.4 percent of all children with trike injuries were admitted to the hospital.
- In cases where the accident location was known, most injuries occurred at home.
Many kids injured on trikes are too young for them, said Dr. Michelle Blumstein, a pediatrician in the emergency department at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.
“It’s not surprising that kids who are not developmentally ready to ride a tricycle are getting hurt on them,” said Blumstein, who was not involved with the study.
Most tricycles are not for kids younger than 3, she said.
Protective gear is also critical, both experts said. “I recommend from the moment you put your child on any type of riding toy putting them in a helmet,” Blumstein said.
“Wrist guards are my second recommendation, because wrists often get broken,” Blumstein said. Atallah also suggested elbow pads, noting elbow fractures were the most common bone breaks.
But most important is to watch your kids, Blumstein and Atallah said. “They’re tripping, they’re falling, so parents need to be at their side,” Blumstein said.
Make sure the area where your child is riding is free of hazards and doesn’t lead to the street, a pool or other body of water, the study noted.
Making modifications to the tricycle can also reduce the risk of injury, the researchers said.
Because many accidents occur after a sudden turn, Atallah’s team suggested limiting the turning radius of the handle bars.
A tricycle without brakes can pick up speed going down graded, paved areas, increasing the risk that children may lose control, the study pointed out.
Atallah’s team suggested adding an implantable device to the front wheel of the tricycle that prevents the tricycle from going too fast.