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27,000 Kids Have Hurt Themselves on Hoverboards In Just Two Years

Hoverboards haven't been around that long. But they already have unique injury patterns and 27,000 ER visits to their name.

Hoverboards have caused nearly 27,000 injuries among U.S. children in their first two years on the market, according to a new study in Pediatrics. Researchers examined 2015 and 2016 emergency room data, and found that the usual crop of about 120,000 skateboard injuries had been complemented by a a newcomer—hoverboards, which debuted in 2015 and are significantly less safe than they seem.

“Hoverboards have a very low center of gravity, increasing the risk of falls,” Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told CBS News. “Riding one safely requires a good amount of core strength to maintain your balance. It often looks a lot easier to ride one than it really is.”

The study suggests that there have been 26,854 hoverboard injuries in the U.S. since these seemingly innocuous toys hit the market. Like skateboarding accidents, wrists are the most frequently injured body part and fractures are the most common injuries (40 percent), followed by bruises, sprains, and strains. There were some surprises, though. Unlike skateboarding injuries, there was a nearly-even gender spread—girls accounted for 48 percent of cases (compared to 25 percent among skateboarders)—and the majority of injuries occurred at home (most skateboarding injuries occur outdoors).

Despite recalls warning that hoverboard batteries could catch fire, there were no reported injuries from overheated batteries. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any burn injuries. In one case, a child rode his hoverboard in the kitchen and collided with a pot of boiling water. Distraction is usually the culprit, Glatter said. “I continue to see young teens with head and wrist injuries in the E.R., often the result of being distracted by using a smartphone and listening to music while riding a hoverboard.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children under age 16 should not be operating unlicensed motorized vehicles and, given that the average age of children injured by hoverboards was 12-years-old, that seems like solid advice. If you absolutely give your kids hoverboards, make sure they wear helmets and padding. Not that Glatter considers this sufficient. “My personal feeling is that they are unsafe,” he said. “I would advise parents against allowing their teens and children to ride them.”