The recent tragic death of Mike Tyson’s young daughter as a result of a treadmill accident highlights the vigilance necessary by parents of young children. Treadmills are the most popular workout machine in the country. Many homes with treadmills also have young children, a combination that potentially can be extremely dangerous.
About 1,000 children under 14 die of unintentional strangulation each year, 88 percent of whom are under 4 years old, said Larry Stone, founder of Safety Matters, a company that specializes in childproofing homes. Stone said injuries involving treadmills were fairly common, but said he had never heard of strangulation involving a treadmill.
"All injuries are preventable. There are ways to babyproof your home," Stone said. "I think that largely it is a matter of taking care of the more straightforward things … making sure there are no cords from the windows hanging and certainly keeping the child in view."
A treadmill can be the cause of third degree friction burns for children, an injury experts say is happening more than many parents realize.
According to Mary K. Donovan, a nurse practitioner and manager of outpatient care coordinator at Shriner’s Hospital for Children, “In 1999, I started seeing more kids coming in with injuries which they said were from getting caught under a treadmill or landing on the belt of a treadmill.” Nearly thirty children have been treated at Shriner’s as a result of treadmill accidents.
“If they were young children, the parents or a family member was on a treadmill, if they were preschool children, they were trying to, they had learned to master putting the plug in climbing on, turning it on, and they would turn the switch go too fast and be flipped off,” Donovan says.
Injuries range from burned fingers and forearms to more serious injuries that require skin grafts to repair the open wounds.
“It looks like a small injury but it has long-term, at least a year, and permanent scarring as a result,” says Donovan.
To help prevent your child from treadmill injuries, experts say never let your child play on or near a treadmill, and always keep the treadmill unplugged with the cord wrapped and tucked under the machine. Avoid using the treadmill when children are around. If they don’t see you on it, they’re less likely to be curious about it. And for the most protection, consider keeping the treadmill in a locked room.