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Your treadmill can cause serious injury in kids

June 29, 2015

I hate to add one more worry to the already long list of safety concerns for parents, but here I go. The exercise equipment found in so many homes today poses a serious threat to children. I know, right? You finally make a commitment to get fit and now there is just one more reason to let your treadmill become a clothes rack.

As a therapist, I treat treadmill burns on a regular basis and see the painful and often long-term damage that can occur. Parents don’t come out unscathed either. These accidents usually happen when mom or dad is exercising and their child touches the treadmill so quickly that the parent doesn’t have time to stop the treadmill or the child. This can also occur if older children are playing on the treadmill and the speed of the treadmill becomes too fast; they can fall down on the moving belt and receive significant burns to their hands, knees, arms or legs. Parents are often unaware of the danger but still feel the guilt when it happens. So, let’s look at the facts.

Treadmills can move at more than 8 feet per second! If a child’s hand, knees or legs touch the moving parts, the force of friction is so great that instead of the small scrape that one might expect, a child might instead receive a serious burn that requires extensive medical treatment. Data from the studies I reviewed all reported similar results. Treadmill burns are most common in younger children, particularly around 4 years of age and most injuries occur to the child’s hand while an adult caregiver was using the machine.

The good news is that when given medical attention in conjunction with therapy, outcomes are good. A doctor will evaluate the severity of injury and determine the necessary plan of care. If your child sustains an injury to their hand the pediatric therapy team, which includes physical and occupational therapists, will work with the medical team to restore your child’s hand while making the process as comfortable and fun as possible. Here at Arnold Palmer Hospital, our acute care physical therapy staff has extensive knowledge and great outcomes for treating this type of injury. Once the wound begins to close, careful attention by an occupational therapist is started to prevent heavy scarring which can lead to loss of movement, strength and decreased hand function. The occupational therapist will evaluate the effect of scarring on the injured hand and provide interventions to restore hand function. Typically children will need diligent scar massage, splinting and exercises to regain full hand function.

Remember, these burns are preventable. Careful supervision is a must. Exercise is an important way for busy parents to stay healthy and alleviate stress. Keep in mind that while staying fit at home, extra measures should be taken to ensure the safety of your small children. Educate kiddos on the danger of treadmills and set aside time to work out while your little ones are a safe distance away. Locking the door or positioning the treadmill so that you can keep an eye on the kids are just a few ways to prevent burns.

Any other ideas? Please share and help us prevent injuries to our precious little ones.