September 27th, 2010
05:59 PM ET
Injuries from Segways appear to be on the rise, according to one study based on data from a Washington, D.C., hospital.
The research article was released online Monday in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, shortly after police in England reported that James Heselden, the 62-year-old owner of the Segway company, had died - apparently in an accident involving one of his upright two-wheeled vehicles.
Heselden’s body was pulled from the River Wharfe in northern England on Sunday, according to police. A Segway-type vehicle was recovered from the river, police said.
Researchers in the department of emergency medicine at The George Washington University observed several Segway-related injuries and looked into these incidents between April 2005 to November 2008 by examining electronic medical data.
In 2006, the hospital's emergency department had three cases, then eight cases in 2007, and 25 in the first 11 months of 2008.
Dr. Mary Pat McKay, lead author, said it’s likely that there were more cases, but there is no code for Segway injuries in the electronic medical records. The number of Segway injuries is only a small fraction considering its emergency department receives about 49,000 to 63,000 adult patients annually.
Segway-related injuries tend to be severe, McKay said.
“Several cases involved the rider unintentionally striking an immobile object, including a park bench, a signpost, a light pole, and a tree,” the authors wrote in the article.
Ten of the 41 patients (24.4 percent) were admitted to the emergency department and four of them had to stay in the Intensive Care Unit for traumatic brain injuries. No deaths were reported in the study.
Patients also required procedures to repair fractures, Achilles tendon tear, brain contusions, collapsed lung, and fractured ribs.
“I think what happens is that people are going forward and the top speed is 12.5 miles,” McKay said. “Their hands are on the steering mechanism and they hit something, stop suddenly and they fall off. They can’t get their hands out to save them. It’s not the same thing as falling from standing… We were concerned that it could be as severe as being hit by a car.”
Segways entered the American market in 2001 and are used by law enforcement, tour groups and even commuters. As in most places in the United States, Washington, D.C.,does not require helmets for Segways - although the tour groups require them.
“The first thing is wear a helmet and be aware of what’s in front of you,” said McKay, a professor of emergency medicine and public health at George Washington University. “I suspect one of the things that go on a tour, is that people are looking up at things they’re gliding past - that’s how they end up running into what’s in front of them.”
“All of our injuries were from falling off from the Segway,” she said. “They were running into something immobile. They simply were coming to a halt and falling.”
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