Tyson's Tragedy Shows Treadmill Danger

Choking is rare, but experts say real treadmill hazards aren't always obvious.

May 26, 2009, 4:08 PM

May 27, 2009— -- Losing sight of a 4-year-old for a few minutes can happen to anybody. But experts say what happened to Mike Tyson's daughter, Exodus, is an example of a freak accident on a household item that has a reputation for unseen dangers.

Exodus' 7-year-old brother found her Monday, entangled in a cord hanging under the treadmill console in the family's Phoenix home, police said. The boy called for their mother, who ran into the room, dialed 911 and tried to revive her with CPR before the ambulance arrived.

Exodus died Tuesday morning, Phoenix police said.

Documented cases of treadmill injuries have shown that the moving parts, hard edges and programmed speeds can sometimes harm people in unexpected ways.

For example, in 2001, 12 children in separate incidents in Philadelphia suffered injuries from treadmill accidents. Six of them got their hands caught in the belts and suffered abrasions and resulting scar tissue so severe that they required plastic surgery to just to be able to open their hands again.

An 86-year-old woman sued a Chicago area health club in 2006 after a treadmill malfunction threw her from the machine and then severed her right foot.

An estimated 25,000 children each year are hurt on exercise equipment, and at least 2,600 children a year land in the emergency room from treadmills alone, according to Kim Dulic, spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"CPSC is concerned about the severity of injuries to children because the hazards are not always obvious, as we've seen recently," Dulic said.

How to Prevent Treadmill Accidents

"Any time there's a string hanging and a kid playing around it, it can cause a problem," said Turner.

"I honestly haven't heard one from a treadmill but anytime you have a cord and a kid it can happen," said Turner. "It's always some kind of a freak combination -- which is what this case was."

Because injuries can be unexpected, the CPSC has a tough recommendation for safety. "We do recommend children be kept away from all exercise equipment whether it's currently in use or whether it's powered down," said Dulic.

But as dangerous as exercise equipment may be, experts in pediatric safety say that they rarely cause strangulation. In fact, strangulation injuries are generally rare -- especially in children over age 2.

Tragic stories like that of Exodus might "strike the imagination," Dowd said, and put parents on high alert, but more mundane accidents and more common oversights cause far too many deaths and injuries.

"Motor vehicle crashes is number one," Dowd said. "People don't even think that their kids would get hurt. It's so common, I think that people take it for granted."

Accidents such as falls and parental mistakes like leaving medication in childrens' reach are also common causes of child injuries, she said.

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