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New Research: More Head Injuries Happen on E-Scooters Than Bikes

By Jiri Kaloc

Electric scooters are the latest member of the modern urban transportation family. They are fast and convenient and can help lessen traffic congestion just like bicycles. The problem is that a new study found a major surge of injuries related to scooters, particularly among young adults. What can we do about it?

The number of injuries has been rising

A team of researchers from the UCSF analysed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System on injuries related to emergency room visits. They found that the number of scooter-related injuries and hospital admissions in the United States grew by 222 % between 2014 and 2018 to more than 39,000 injuries. The number of hospital admissions sky-rocketed by 365 % to a total of nearly 3,300. The rate of scooter accidents also increased from 6 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 19 in 2018. The most common injuries were fractures (27 %), contusions and abrasions (23 %), and lacerations (14 %).

Fallen over, unused e-scooters and parked e-bikes on a sidewalk at Alexanderplatz, Berlin. © dpa picture alliance / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia

Alarming increase in head injuries

What’s even more troubling is that nearly one third of the patients suffered head trauma, which is more than 2x the rate of head injuries to bicyclists. About a third of the e-scooter injuries were to women, and people between the ages of 18 and 34 were the most often injured for the first time in 2018.

“There was a high proportion of people with head injuries, which can be very dangerous,” said Breyer, an associate professor of urology and chief of urology at UCSF partner hospital Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. “Altogether, the near doubling of e-scooter trauma from 2017 to 2018 indicates that there should be better rider safety measures and regulation.”

Two cyclists riding in traffic in London. © Profimedia, Alamy

Helmets are important for e-scooters just like for bicycles

Previous research showed that only 2 – 5 % of injured e-scooter riders wore helmets when they were hurt, which is a substantial contributing factor.

“It’s been shown that helmet use is associated with a lower risk of head injury,” said first author Nikan K. Namiri, medical student at the UCSF School of Medicine. “We strongly believe that helmets should be worn and e-scooter manufacturers should encourage helmet use by making them more easily accessible.”