The number of toy-related injuries increased nearly 60 percent in the past two decades, largely thanks to ride-on products like scooters, a new study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio has found.
Emergency room visit reports from 1990 to 2011 showed more than 3.3 million children received urgent treatment for a toy-related mishap, researchers from the Columbus hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy said. That translated into one emergency room visit every three minutes in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my career as a pediatric emergency room physician,” said Dr. Gary Smith, the study’s lead author and director of the center.
Smith noted that the study only took into account emergency room data and not accidents that were treated in urgent care centers, physician’s offices or at home. This means the number of toy-related injuries was probably vastly under reported, he said.
Different age groups are at risk for different kinds of toy hazards, the study found. For children younger than 3, choking on small toy parts was the greatest threat.
As kids get older and more active, 40 percent of their injuries were a result of a spill on a ride-on toy like a scooter, tricycle or wagon, with boys accounting for 63 percent of the tumbles. Head injuries, fractures and broken bones were the most likely reasons for a trip to the ER.
While scooters have been around for a long time, the fast, foldable lightweight versions started appearing around 2000, Smith said.
“For the next two years the rate of scooter injuries spiked, dropped slightly until about 2005 and have been on the rise ever since,” Smith said, adding that skate board injuries have actually declined during the same time period.
Many injuries can easily be prevented with proper safety gear and appropriate supervision, he said.
“Wear a helmet, wear a helmet, wear a helmet,” Smith cautioned.
He also said that staying away from traffic can help prevent some of the more serious injuries.
But Smith said parents aren’t the only ones responsible for the safety of toys.
“It’s up to toy companies and groups like public health officials to improve toy-safety standards, design and recall effectiveness,” he said.
Smith added that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is doing a good job lobbying for improved safety standards and informing parents about recalls. He said parents can check for toy recall information on recalls.gov.
The Razor Scooter Co., the largest maker of scooters, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission did not immediately return ABC News’ requests for comment.