Electric scooter injuries surge as more riders mangle legs and skulls

FRED SQUILANTE/COLUMBUS DISPATCH/TNS – In this file photo, scooters are parked on a street last year in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

BY MICHAEL FINCH II AND TONY BIZJAK
THE SACRAMENTO BEE/TNS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Hospitals nationwide are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of electric scooter injuries, particularly in the last three years as companies and cities push for alternative forms of transportation, according to a new study published in JAMA Surgery. 

It’s one of the first pieces of evidence that could frustrate attempts to decongest highly trafficked urban areas with e-scooters. Cities across the country are betting on a transportation future that’s environmentally cleaner than it is today. 

The study raises the question of whether it will also be safer. 

Head trauma concern 

Researchers at UC San Francisco used data that tracks injuries at a sample of hospitals across the country, focusing on cases involving scooters during a five-year period ending in 2018. They found that the rate of injuries jumped from 6 to 19 cases for every 100,000 people — a three-fold increase. 

The largest share of the injuries — about one-third in 2018 — were to the head or the legs. But researchers said the concern is greater for potential head trauma that can be more severe and more difficult to recover from. 

People under the age of 34 accounted for the largest shares of hospital admissions, including children under 18. And urban hospitals saw nearly six times more scooter injuries than rural facilities. 

No helmets

Dr. Benjamin Breyer, the lead author of the study and a urologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, said the study, which was published as a “research letter,” originated from seeing injuries related to scooter usage at the hospital after shared bikes and then scooters were introduced in San Francisco.

“When we looked at bicycles about 16% of the time someone presented to the emergency room it was a head injury but it was close to 1 in three for the scooter,” Breyer said.

 “A lot of that has to do with people not wearing helmets when they ride scooters. The position you’re in standing upright, you’re probably not (able) to brace for a fall.”

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