As soon as the season’s most popular Christmas gift was unwrapped Friday, it began sending children and grown-ups to the hospital.
Hoverboard crashes caused at least three serious head injuries this weekend, said Dr. Charles Bowie, a neurosurgeon at The Neuromedical Center in Baton Rouge who saw two children and one adult at a local hospital after they crashed while riding their new hoverboards.
These serious head injuries probably represent a small percentage of the unreported bruises, scratches and slight sprains suffered over the weekend, he said.
“This was the big Christmas present this year, and literally, people went downstairs, got on their hoverboards and injured themselves,” Bowie said.
Doctors at Baton Rouge General Medical Center have seen about 10 patients in the past week with injuries caused by hoverboards, said spokeswoman Meghan Parrish. Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center has seen at least nine, said spokesman Trey Williams.
“We do feel there are more,” said Williams, but the hospital does not yet have a specific code for hoverboard-related falls.
Injuries treated at the hospitals ranged from arm and leg pain to broken bones and cuts that required stitches.
In Lafayette, a spokesman for Lafayette General Medical Center said doctors there have treated two people for hoverboard-related injuries since Christmas, for a fractured wrist and a fractured elbow.
“We had several others in the ER prior to Christmas,” said hospital spokesman Daryl Cetnar.
The head injuries Bowie evaluated in Baton Rouge did not require surgery, but they were serious. Two were hemorrhages outside of the brain, and one was a hemorrhage in the brain.
These two-wheeled, self-balancing electric scooters, nicknamed hoverboards, gained attention this holiday season nationwide as several caught fire while charging and damaged or destroyed homes.
Less-serious falls — chronicled on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the label #hoverboardfail — show moms and dads hopping on hoverboards and hitting the pavement.
Few riders wore any protective gear at all, said Bowie, who encourages users to treat the hoverboard like a bicycle or skateboard.
“People are seeing this as a toy, not as a serious sport,” Bowie said.
Hoverboards have two wheels side by side and balance by themselves. To go forward, the rider leans that way. To turn, the rider puts pressure on one foot or the other.
Many new users hop on, then try to turn too quickly, Bowie said.
“It’s a completely new body movement for most people,” Bowie said. “I’ve heard it compared to snow skiing, but many people in south Louisiana are not familiar with that.”
To prevent injury, Bowie recommended a few guidelines:
Wear basic safety gear such as a helmet, and knee and elbow pads.
Closely supervise children while they use hoverboards. Adults should never use them alone.
Take it slow. Don’t try too much too quickly. Learn to ride in a straight line and to safely stop before turning.
Not all falls require medical attention, Bowie said, but the following symptoms should be checked immediately by a doctor:
Losing consciousness after hitting your head
Suffering from a prolonged headache after a crash
Feeling tingling or numbness following a wreck.