Study: Baby strollers, carriers injure 17,000 children

Lisa Gutierrez
Kansas City Star

Thousands of children every year are taken to hospital emergency rooms with injuries associated with baby strollers and carriers, reveals a new study published last week in the medical journal Academic Pediatrics.

The study found that from 1990 to 2010, a yearly average of 17,187 children under the age of 5 suffered injuries ranging from mild bruises to severe concussions, though that rate appears to be declining.

Most of the injured children — 96.5 percent — were not hospitalized.

Most often injured? Boys under the age of 1.

Bumps and bruises, most often to the head and face, were the most common injuries, the study found. But about a quarter of stroller injuries and 35 percent of carrier-related injuries were concussions or traumatic brain injuries.

In fact, the rate of TBIs and concussions rose dramatically in the time period studied, from 19 percent of injuries in 1990 to 42 percent of injuries in 2010 for strollers, and from 18 percent of injuries in 1990 to 53 percent of injuries in 2010 for carriers.

Researchers said the increase might be due to the public’s increased awareness of head injuries rather than a true rise in the rate of cases.

“While these products are used safely by families every day, when injuries do occur they can be quite serious,” study co-author Kristi Roberts, a research associate in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said in a statement.

“The majority of injuries we saw were head injuries, which is scary considering the fact that traumatic brain injuries and concussions in young children may have long-term consequences on cognitive development.”

Investigators analyzed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on consumer product and sports-related injuries treated in American emergency rooms. They estimated national injury rates by also reviewing information from 100 hospitals and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The injuries are not necessarily caused by the products themselves. For instance, 60 percent to 65 percent of the injuries happened when children fell out of strollers and carriers — both the wearable type like Baby Bjorns and carriers with handles.

Just for stroller injuries, about 16 percent happened when a stroller tipped over, 9 percent when the child tripped over it, and 5 percent when the child got an arm or leg caught in it, according to Live Science.

“In general, these are products that are not hazardous in and of themselves, usually, especially if they are used properly,” Kyran Quinlan, associate professor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, told ABC News.

“This study calls attention to make sure they are used right.”

The study doesn’t exonerate the products completely. From 1990 through 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission “issued 43 stroller-related recalls and 13 infant carrier-related recalls for injury risks that included falls, entrapment, strangulation or choking hazards, amputations, and lacerations,” the study pointed out.

Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said that new federal mandates have been issued since 2010, the last year studied, to make strollers and carriers safer.

“For this reason, my message to parents is: newer is better,” Kaye said in a statement. “Safer juvenile products that meet these mandatory standards are in stores and online today. They are designed and built with critical safety features that I strongly encourage parents to use each time their children are in a stroller or carrier.”

Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told ABC News he consistently sees children come in with stroller-related injuries that are usually not serious.

For that reason he tells parents: “Slow down, never rush ... this is precious cargo.”

Glatter is not a fan of adults texting or using cell phones while pushing a stroller or using a baby carrier because “even a split second of distraction can lead to a misstep, trip or fall,” he said.

The study’s authors also included tips for parents. As basic as it sounds, parents should make sure their child is always seated and buckled properly into the stroller or carrier. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on buckling.

Don’t hang heavy purses or bags on stroller handles because all that weight could cause it to tip over.

Lock the stroller’s wheels so it doesn’t roll away when you park it.

And never, ever, let a child push a stroller.