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Almost every day on my work commute, I see someone riding an electric (or motorized) scooter, a surging form of transportation in the U.S. While these scooters are convenient and fun, they unfortunately are sending more people to the hospital than bicycles and walking—and most injuries are more serious in nature, if not severe.
There are a number of reasons for these accidents. But the most common scenarios that result in people seeing us with electric scooter injuries include people:
- Falling while turning a corner
- Getting struck by a car
- Hitting a bump in the street or sidewalk
- Jumping off after losing control of their electric scooter
The individuals most at risk of experiencing an injury while riding electric scooters are those with a history of osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, as their bones would break more easily if an accident were to occur.
If you do ride an electric scooter, make sure you wear a helmet, start slowly, and become comfortable controlling them in low-traffic areas. If you’re not careful, you can get into an accident and experience a significant injury.
LISTEN: Dr. Golden discusses electric scooters and what kind of injuries they can lead to in the Medical Intel podcast.
Common Electric Scooter Injuries We See
There isn’t one single common injury we see from electric scooter accidents. We see upper-extremity and lower-extremity injuries, and pretty much everything in between. This likely is because there are so many different ways you can land after falling from your electric scooter, as well as various areas of the body where a car can hit you.
The injuries we typically see following an electric scooter accident correspond with the most common orthopaedic trauma injuries we see, which include:
- Lower-extremity fractures: These include the hip, knee, and ankle joints, as well as the bones of the thigh, leg, and foot. The most common is breaking the tibia, one of two bones below your knee and above your ankle.
- Upper-extremity fractures: These include the fingers, hand, wrist, arm, and elbow.
Riding an #electricscooter is fun and convenient. But it’s important to be careful, as accidents can result in serious injuries, such as fractures to the lower and upper extremities. https://bit.ly/2k6byGe via @MedStarWHC
Treatment after Electric Scooter Accidents
Since most of the injuries we see related to electric scooters involve broken bones, we often have to perform surgery to treat these injuries. Surgery typically involves realigning the broken bone and stabilizing it with nails, plates, or screws to hold it still and in the best position for the bone to heal. Bones usually take about three months to heal, although some bones heal a little faster or slower. In some cases, people have wounds that cannot be simply stitched closed. In these cases, we work closely with plastic surgeons to close the wounds.
Following surgery, there will be a period of immobilization that can range from a few days to several months, depending on the severity of the fracture and which bone was broken. We always encourage patients to walk and move around as soon as we determine it’s safe to minimize or avoid joint stiffness and prevent muscle loss. We see patients for checkups during their entire healing process to ensure the bone remains aligned properly and that their healing is progressing as expected.
Physical therapy can be a part of recovery for many patients following bone fractures, depending on what bone was broken and what treatment they received. For people whose fractures require prolonged immobilization, physical therapy may be necessary to minimize joint stiffness and rebuild muscle. Physical therapy isn’t always necessary for individuals who experience a fracture in the middle of one of their longer bones, such as the femur or tibia, as we can insert a rod into the bone to fix it, resulting in people being able to bear weight quickly as the bone heals around the rod.
A Success Story
We saw one patient who had just fallen off his electric scooter. He had a fairly complex fracture of his tibial plateau, the bone forming the bottom part of your knee joint. To treat him, our orthopedic trauma team performed several surgeries to properly align and stabilize his broken bone. He also required the plastic surgery team to get involved to help cover his wounds that he sustained as a result of his crash. After a few months, his fracture had healed, he participated in physical therapy, was walking on his own, and working his way to returning to more strenuous physical activity.
A Final Word on Scooter Safety
In most cases, if you’re careful and relatively healthy, you’re probably OK riding an electric scooter. But it’s important that you start slowly and become comfortable controlling your electric scooter before hitting the streets with traffic. These scooters are far different than the ones we were riding years ago—they pick up a good amount of speed. As a result, if you fall off of one, there’s a good chance you will sustain an injury. And as always, wear a helmet.
As with most forms of transportation, there is risk involved when riding electric scooters. If you own an electric scooter or have considered renting one, make sure you’re totally comfortable riding it before taking it out in areas with traffic.