When push comes to shove, your child's pedal toy may be more risky than you think. A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control found a shocking number of Wisconsin children were taken to the emergency room because of small bicycle and tricycle accidents.
The study surveyed hospital emergency rooms in Wisconsin. It's primary author, Doctor Arthur Wendel of the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, found more than 2,000 children visited an emergency room in the state for injuries from pedal-powered toys between 2002 and 2004.
"I am a dad watching my little kid run around and smack his head on things and it kind of makes you think about the dangers that are out there," says Dr. Wendel. "That is how this study started."
Almost two-thirds of the accidents resulted in head or neck injuries and a small percentage caused traumatic brain injuries.
"There are a lot of studies that are looking at older children, but there are not as many looking at younger children," says Dr. Wendel. "That is really the age when they are starting to bicycle or ride a tricycle."
The study is one of few to compile an entire state's emergency room data. Only a small percentage of injuries were caused by motor vehicles colliding with the bikes, which may surprise some parents.
"Most of them are probably in their driveway, on the sidewalks or their just riding on the street," says Dr. Wendel. "They are learning how to ride a bicycle for the first time and they tip over because they don't know how to ride yet."
Doctors say parents should consider helmets for their kids as soon as they start riding any moving toy. Once they make a habit of wearing them, it could prevent injuries for years to come.
"If you intervene at a young age and start getting kids to wear helmets early, they'll continue wearing them throughout life," says Dr. Wendel.
Kids at The Learning Gardens in Madison took tricycles out for a ride Wednesday. The mild weather was a rare opportunity for the children to get outside in January.
The Learning Gardens Executive Director Joanna Parker says the children they care for always have helmets in case they take a spill.
"Having supervision is the biggest thing," says Parker. "Knowing what your children are doing and having set rules that are consistent so that they know how to play in a way makes it safer."
The CDC study did not track whether kids were wearing helmets at the time of the crashes. Dr. Wendel reminds parents that helmets need to be worn low on kids foreheads to prevent injuries to the head and face.