This past week in Canada, a three-year old girl was killed while playing near home exercise equipment. In May of this year, the four-year-old daughter of boxer Mike Tyson died after becoming entangled in a cord hanging from a treadmill. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 8,700 children under 5 years of age sustain personal injuries caused by exercise equipment. Approximately 16,500 children ages 5 to 14 sustain exercise equipment-related injuries each year.
Injuries from exercise equipment include head injuries, broken bones, strangulation, and even amputations. These injuries can occur on just about any type of home exercise equipment, but treadmills, stair climbers, and stationary bicycles seem to be the most frequent causes of childhood injuries. According to experts, there are several things that parents can do to reduce these types of injuries:
1) Read instruction manuals carefully. Many parents see exercise machines are innocuous and safe, but most instruction manuals carefully detail possible hazards. Being aware of these dangers is crucial in preventing injuries. Always assemble, use, and store exercise equipment in exactly the manner prescribed in the instructions.
2) Keep your exercise equipment locked away. When you are not using your exercise equipment, store it correctly so that children do not have access to it. If possible, store exercise equipment in a locked room. At the very least, lock exercise equipment so that curious children cannot use it. Remove any dangling cords and wires to reduce strangulation hazards.
3) Check for product defects and recalls. If you notice something dangerous about your exercise machine – it doesn’t operate correctly or becomes overly heated – return the product and contact the manufacturer and retailer. Check frequently for recalls and register your product so that you will be informed of any recall notices. Incorrectly functioning equipment greatly increases the odds of injury.
4) Do not treat exercise equipment as a toy. Do not let your children play on or around exercise equipment. Do not allow young children to use exercise equipment – always check instruction manuals for age requirements.
5) Supervise younger children using the equipment and make sure older children use the exercise equipment correctly. Once your children reach the age when they can use exercise equipment safely, supervise your children while they use the equipment and teach them to use the equipment correctly. Make sure that older children and teenagers are aware of the proper ways to use the exercise equipment in your home.