The recent death of Dave Goldberg has spotlighted the hazards of treadmills, as reported in a recent article. See http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/06/health/goldberg-treadmill-accident-cases/index.html.

 

The question is being asked: how does a seemingly healthy 47-year-old businessman, husband and father die in a treadmill accident? Unfortunately, treadmill-related accidents are more common than most of us realize.

Mr. Goldberg’s death has been attributed to a fall from the exercise equipment he was using, resulting in head trauma. He reportedly suffered from traumatic brain injury and hypovolemic shock, a condition tied to severe blood and fluid loss. As reported in the referenced article, emergency rooms saw 24,000 injuries related to the treadmill in 2014, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The machines’ dizzyingly fast belts can lead to a loss of balance, resulting in bruises, broken bones or worse. One can also get entangled in its cords, which can cause asphyxiation.

Although deaths are not as common as injuries, six years ago a 4 year old girl was strangled by a cord connected to such a machine, even though it was not being operated at the time.

What can consumers do to be safe and avoid incidents? First, keep children away from treadmills — both stationary and moving. Second, use the safety key provided, which will help ensure that the treadmill stops should the user fall. Third, don’t start the machine while on the belt, to avoid injury due to the sudden movement of the belt. Finally, be familiar with the location and operation of the shut-off button.

Still, the first and most important responsibility regarding safety of such exercise equipment rests with manufacturers and distributors, who must ensure that all safety regulations and statutes are followed, as well a design approach that takes into consideration the environment of end use. Thus, treadmills must be safely designed to account for children in the household, as well as the potential for consumers to fall while exercising. While not all injuries can be avoided, proper and safe design can help minimize the impact of foreseeable uses.