Home Treadmill Hazards for Kids – Expect the Unexpected

We had a holiday open house on New Year’s Day: several families from the neighborhood, school and Cub Scouts – with mulled wine and hot chocolate to chase away the winter blues. It was a lot of fun, but my son was disappointed that none of his best friends could make it. In fact, no boys came – only girls. Despite this initial set back, the kids started to mingle – aided by a few activities and the display of newly acquired Christmas presents. Before I even had a chance to worry about boredom setting in, the kids had migrated downstairs to the TV/playroom to watch a holiday movie.

Things in the basement went well for some time – confirmed by occasional checks. But near the end of the festivities they must have gotten antsy – and we heard some loud crashes and telltale wails. The basement also has a workout area and – despite a long-standing restriction on unsupervised use – they had started to play on our treadmill.

Somehow Elliott ended up with a big friction burn on his shoulder from the treadmill belt – and one of the younger girls had fallen off and banged her head. Apparently these are common types of childhood injuries involving motorized treadmills. About.com reports that some friction injuries have been so bad that occasionally children have required skin grafts or plastic surgery!

I felt terrible that this happened – and at our house. That said, the girl’s mother informed me that they have a home treadmill too – and she’s also been told not to use it. Somehow power and curiosity overcame the parental restrictions. But apparently this situation isn’t uncommon. The Australian government became so concerned about home treadmill injuries to kids that in 2008 they issued a product safety alert and began a public awareness campaign. The key recommendations for parents are to place the treadmill in a separate room that children can’t access – or surround the machine with child barriers to ensure that they don’t try to touch or climb on the machine when it’s in use, which can happen before you notice. Even a short duration of contact can result in injuries to little ones. About.com provides additional guidance on home treadmill safety measures to minimize potential hazards.

Treadmill Safety Bypass!

Of course, fitness equipment like treadmills also comes with built-in safety features. There’s usually a safety clip and cord that should be worn by the user while running. If the runner stumbles or falls the clip disengages and the belt stops. Additionally, the machine won’t start without the safety clip in place – which is key to securing the machine from unsupervised use by children. However, kids can be very ingenious….our son realized that the clip attached to the machine via a magnet – and determined that he could bypass the clip using the magnetized crane winch from his Thomas the Tank Engine train set! Even your best safety plans can be undermined by the curiosity of kids. In cases like this, what is a parent to do?? Certainly, consequences for disobeying the restriction on using the treadmill can help – but I think the pain of his injury was a stronger lesson. I just hope he doesn’t always have to learn the hard way.

About the Author

Audra is an experienced pharmaceutical marketing professional, aspiring writer, and mother of Elliott, a high-spirited twenty-year old. Frequently tired but never bored, she has a strong interest in public health fostered by numerous years implementing global oncology education programs as well as by her twenty-year crazy (wild? amazing?) adventure in parenting. She recently earned a Masters in Public Health to augment her expertise in health policy and health promotion. Audra is a founding member of the PedSafe Team


3 Responses to “Home Treadmill Hazards for Kids – Expect the Unexpected”

  1. Hi Audrey, sorry to read about your children’s treadmill mishaps and for sharing this post on helping educate us regarding better child saftey in the home. Regards, Jayne
    Horizon Fitness T101 Treadmill

  2. emily says:

    Hey Audra, great post!

    Found exactly what i was searching for about treadmills.


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