Understanding the Dangers of Treadmills

Exercise equipment is commonly used to improve personal health and well-being and treadmills account for about 25% of exercise equipment purchased for home use. Previous studies have shown that the rate of treadmill-related injuries appears to be rising. Recent research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital identified 96 patients treated for treadmill hand burns over 5 years.

Young children, ages 1-4 years old, are most frequently injured. Often, they crawl or walk, unnoticed by the caregiver, and place their hand on the moving treadmill. Their small hand may get trapped near the back of the machine while the treadmill continues to run. Injuries may include lacerations, fractures and friction burns.

Most hand burns from treadmills occur in young children who require adult supervision; here are some tips for caregivers:

  • Recognize that a treadmill is a piece of heavy machinery.
  • Read and understand safety mechanisms in place for your specific treadmill.
  • Prevent access to the machine during treadmill use. Use baby gates or a play pen; or wait until another adult can supervise the child.
  • Do not leave a running treadmill unattended.
  • Position the treadmill to face the room.

Treadmill injuries to the hand are often deep friction burns and are diagnosed as full thickness wounds about 25% of the time. These wounds may require surgery, skin grafts, hospitalization, and ongoing visits to the burn clinic to monitor healing. After healing, there is significant risk of scarring which may limit hand function.

For more information on Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Burn Program, click here and to read more about our treadmill study, click here.

Dana Noffsinger, CPNP-AC
Dana L. Noffsinger is a nurse practitioner with the Section of Pediatric Surgery at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He completed his master’s degree in nursing and advance practice at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and has been a nurse practitioner with the Pediatric Surgery Service since 2002. He is a pediatric nurse practitioner with a passion for pediatric trauma and burn care and has lectured on local and national levels on various pediatric trauma topics. He is also active in the Pediatric Trauma Society and Society of Trauma Nurses.

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