Baby stroller and carrier mishaps cause 2 injuries per hour

Baby stroller
CC BY 2.0 Beverly/flickr

Surprising new study reveals that over 21 years, 361,000 young kids were treated in US emergency rooms for stroller- or carrier-related injuries.

Not long ago I watched a couple pushing a stroller through a crosswalk, as they broke into a run to beat the light they hit a bump and the baby literally flew out onto the road. It was a heart-stopping thing to see; thankfully the baby appeared unharmed and hopefully the parents shaken up enough to realize that those straps and buckles aren’t there just for looks.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a baby spill out of a stroller; I used to think it was because the hip parents in my Brooklyn neighborhood found straps just waaaay too conformist. But after seeing the statistics from a new study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, I realize that it's not just insouciant bohemians who don’t heed the safety instructions.

Although strollers and carriers are generally used to safely get children from point A to point B, injuries do occur, and more frequently than one might imagine. The study found that over a 21-year period from 1990 through 2010, almost 361,000 children aged 5 years and younger were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for stroller- or carrier-related injuries. That works out to about two children per hour. From the study, which was published online in Academic Pediatrics:

Most children were injured when they fell from the stroller (67%) or carrier (63%) or when the stroller (16%) or carrier (29%) tipped over. The head (43% stroller, 62% carrier) and face (31% stroller, 25% carrier) were the most commonly injured parts of the body.

While many of the injuries were soft tissue injuries like bumps and bruises (39% for strollers, 48% for carriers), traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)/concussions accounted for one-quarter (25%) of stroller-related injuries and one-third (35%) of carrier-related injuries. In fact, the proportion of stroller-related TBIs/concussions doubled during the study period going from 19% of injuries in 1990 to 42% of injuries in 2010 and the proportion of carrier-related TBI/concussions tripled going from 18% of injuries in 1990 to 53% of injuries in 2010.

"While these products are used safely by families every day, when injuries do occur they can be quite serious," says study author Kristi Roberts, MS, MPH, from Nationwide Children's. "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."

While the majority of children were sent home after being treated, some of them – 7% of children with a carrier-related injury and 2% with a stroller-related injury – needed to remain in the hospital. Which means that every day in the U.S. a child is hospitalized for a stroller or carrier-related injury; TBIs/concussions accounted for a majority of these cases.

"As parents, we place our most precious cargo in strollers and carriers every day," Roberts says. "By taking a few simple steps like making sure your child is buckled up every time he is in his stroller or carrier and being aware of things that can cause these products to tip over can help prevent many of these injuries."

The following tips come from safety experts; and while they may seem obvious, the statistics show that perhaps not everyone is following directions. Which is understandable, how dangerous can a stroller be? Well, now we know.

  • Always buckle up. Follow all manufacturer's instructions for properly securing children in strollers or carriers. Make sure your child is seated and buckled in at all times.
  • Keep handles clear. Hanging heavy items like purses and bags on the handle of strollers can cause them to tip over. Store these items under the stroller or on your shoulder. If getting a new stroller, look for one with a wide wheel base that will be harder to tip over.
  • Get a model that fits your child. Strollers and carriers are not one-size fits all. Both strollers and carriers have age and weight limits. Make sure to get one that is the right size for your child and follow all manufacturer's guidelines for use.
  • Lock it. Lock stroller wheels when you "park" to prevent it from rolling away unexpectedly.
  • Be careful using a stroller near a curb and in high traffic areas where sidewalks are not available.
  • Keep it low. Keep carriers low to the ground so the child has a shorter fall if the carrier tips over.
  • Check for recalls. Both strollers and carriers have had recalls in recent years.
"While the number of overall injuries from strollers and carriers did go down during the 21 years we looked at in our study, it is still unacceptably high," says Roberts. "The updates to voluntary manufacturer standards and frequent product recalls in recent years have been a good first step but the large number of injuries we are still seeing shows we need to do more."

Tags: Babies

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