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Ask the Expert: Hoverboard Safety

Self-Balancing two wheel electric scooter

In this week’s installment of Ask the Expert, Dr. Emily Dodwell, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon, answers questions on hoverboard safety.

Q. The Hoverboard is looking to be a popular holiday gift this year. How do you recommend children stay safe while riding Hoverboards?

A. Although the term hoverboard first was popularized with Marty McBride and the movie Back to the Future, the term has now come to mean a 2 wheeled self-balancing electric scooter. Although the maximum speed for most devices is about 6 miles per hour injuries can still occur. Falling off the hoverboard, or enduring a collision while riding are the most common mechanisms of injury. Just as we have our children wear helmets for cycling, skateboarding, skiing and snowboarding, helmets are recommended for use with hoverboards. Knee, elbow and wrist guards may also be helpful in avoiding or minimizing injuries as falling onto knees, elbows and wrists can be expected. Riders should ensure they are riding in well-lit areas, and that they stay aware of surrounding people and objects.

Q. What types of injuries can be caused by Hoverboards?

A. Typically hoverboard injuries involve a fall or collision. These can result in injuries to whatever part of the body receives the impact or force of the collision or fall. Similar to cycling, skateboarding, skiing and snowboarding and other sports, one of the most serious injuries that can occur is an impact to the head. Depending on the circumstances, this impact can cause brain damage or even death.  Other injuries may include bruises, sprains and fractures to the torso, arms or legs.

Q. Have patients come to you with injuries from Hoverboards?

A. We have seen a number of injuries from hoverboards, primarily mild injuries such as ankles sprains and wrist fractures.

Q. Do you have any concerns about the safety of these?

A. There is no proof that hoverboards are more dangerous than skateboards, bicycles or other similar devices. However, as tilting and balance are needed to control the device, many children need time to acquire these new skills, so falls and collisions should be expected particularly early on. Further, as hoverboards move slowly, some people may use them in areas that they might not think to ride a bike or a skateboard. Hoverboards should not be used on roads. Using them in congested areas, such as busy sidewalks or hallways could result in injury to your child or other people they collide with. Try to provide your child with guidance on safe areas to ride the hoverboard, and provide supervision.

Q. What would you tell parents they should consider before buying a Hoverboard for their children?

A. If you are considering buying a hoverboard for your child, ensure your child has appropriate safety gear. At the minimum, have your child wear a helmet, and consider wrist, elbow and knee pads. Consider where you would have your child use the hoverboard; make sure there is an uncongested smooth surface for them to learn on. Using a hoverboard does require balance and practice. Consider if your child has mastered other skills such as using a bicycle, scooter or skateboard. Children need supervision when they are learning a new skill, so determine if you have time to supervise your child as he or she learns how to control the hoverboard and use it safely.


Dodwell_5017_PDr. Emily Dodwell is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion. She specializes in general pediatric orthopedic surgery, pediatric trauma, cerebral palsy, and limb deformity correction. Dr. Dodwell treats children of all ages and sees patients with a wide variety of problems including fractures, ligament and tendon injuries, and joint dislocations.

Topics: Featured, Pediatrics
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