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Injuries to Children using Wheelchairs, Crutches and Walkers – May 31, 2010

A new study published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics last week found that United States emergency rooms treated more that 63,000 pediatric mobility aid-related injuries from 1991-2008. Injuries to children related to crutches, walkers and wheelchairs have distinct injury patterns, mechanisms of injury and trigger factors according to the report.

About seventy percent of the injuries related to mobility aid for children under 19 came from the use of wheelchairs. Injuries from wheelchair accidents were more likely to involve traumatic brain injuries or result in hospitalization. Injuries related to the use of crutches were more likely to be triggered by stairs or curbs or misuse of the crutches. These injuries also broke down along age differences as well with children in the 2 to 10 age group more likely to injure their heads or sustain traumatic brain injuries. Younger children also have higher injury rates with walkers and wheelchairs. This age group made up 42% of all cases. The 11-19 year old age group were more likely to sustain injuries involving crutches, suffering injuries such as strains and sprains to their limbs.

Misuse of the mobility aids, such as using a friend’s crutches or standing in a wheelchair, was also examined. Misuse accounted for about eight percent of all injuries with crutches most commonly involved. Sixty percent of all injuries were sustained at home.

“The associations between injury characteristics and type of mobility aid may be a result of the limitations of the children who were using the various aids. Crutch users typically have fewer cognitive, stability and functional limitations than walker and wheelchair users,” explained study author Lara McKenzie, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Likewise, children who fall while using crutches may be able to catch themselves with their feet or hands more easily than those who fall while using walkers or wheelchairs, thereby preventing injuries to the head but leading to more upper extremity injuries.”


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