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JOMS study: Hoverboard head injuries more severe in adults

November 2, 2020

ROSEMONT, Ill. – A new study finds head injuries involving hoverboards are more severe among adults; therefore, the researchers recommend helmet use to help prevent injuries.

Hoverboard head injuries also are more severe during the summer, though most injuries occur during the winter (38 percent) and at home (77 percent), possibly because hoverboards are received as holiday gifts and used by novices, according to the study published in the November issue of the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the official journal of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS).

Operated hands-free, hoverboards are battery-powered, two-wheeled scooters that have been sold since 2015. Riders make a hoverboard move by shifting their weight to trigger its gyroscopic pads. Hoverboards can reach 15 mph on turns, and burns from battery pack fires and explosions have
prompted product recalls, the study notes. 

Researchers examined emergency department records of craniomaxillofacial injuries – involving such body parts as the head, ear and mouth – from hoverboards in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 2015 to 2018. Of the 440 patients, 51 percent were males and 74 percent were 18 or
younger. Injuries most often occurred to the head (73 percent), face (19 percent) and mouth (8 percent).

Adults were three times more likely to have facial fractures and twice as likely to be admitted to a hospital than children, according to the study results. The lower rate in children results from their facial structures – such as elastic bones – the researchers noted, citing other studies.

The overall hospital admission rate for patients was 4.3 percent. The admission rate was higher for patients with facial fractures and injuries within the skull, but the admission rate was lower for soft-tissue injuries.

While most injuries occurred at home, they were more severe when they occurred on the street – a 12 percent hospital admission rate compared to a 2.8 percent rate for injuries at home. With a higher number of facial fractures and hospital admissions, injuries during the summer also were considered more severe in the study results. Hoverboarding outside involves higher speeds and rougher surfaces and is possibly more popular during warm conditions, researchers concluded.

Due to the most common diagnosis of injuries within the skull, researchers recommend riders wear helmets. Men and children were less likely to use helmets, according to the study results. Researchers stated they were unable to draw a strong connection between helmet use and type of injury.

“If hoverboards continue to increase in popularity with the consumer market, the prevalence of accidents is likely to rise,” researchers wrote. “Educating consumers about protective equipment and safe operation will be imperative to reduce rider injuries.”

The authors of “What are the Predictors of Craniomaxillofacial Injuries from Hoverboard Accidents?” are Brendan W. Wu, MMsc, from Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston, Mass.; Kevin C. Lee, DDS, MD, from NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, N.Y.; Min-Wei Hsiung from Boston University in Boston; and Vasiliki Karlis, DMD, MD, from New York University Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital Center in New York.

The full article can be accessed at JOMS.org/article/S0278-2391(20)30328-1/fulltext.

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The Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is published by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons to present to the dental and medical communities comprehensive coverage of new techniques, important developments and innovative ideas in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Practice-applicable articles help develop the methods used to handle dentoalveolar surgery, facial injuries and deformities, TMJ disorders, oral and head and neck cancer, jaw reconstruction, anesthesia and analgesia. The journal also includes specifics on new instruments and diagnostic equipment, and modern therapeutic drugs and devices.