A person rides an electric scooter outside.
Injuries linked to electric scooters jumped 222% from 2014 and 2018, while hospital admissions rose by 365%. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Electric scooter accidents are sending droves to emergency rooms—especially young adults, a new study finds.

As e-scooters’ popularity has exploded, so have injuries—skyrocketing 222% between 2014 and 2018 to more than 39,000. Hospital admissions also soared—365% to nearly 3,300.

Head injuries made up about a third of the injuries—twice the rate seen in bicycle accidents, researchers said.

Men suffered about two-thirds of the injuries. Most riders hurt for the first time were between 18 and 34 years old, researchers found.


Our Take

As a Spectrum Health surgeon specializing in the treatment of orthopedic trauma, Gable Moffitt, MD, knows well the dangers of e-scooters.

These fun, economical rides are already available in many Michigan cities and they’re likely to hit the streets of Grand Rapids soon. But riders need to be aware of surrounding hazards and take steps to avoid them, Dr. Moffitt said.

Cars, pedestrians, icy patches, dead leaves and other objects on roads or sidewalks can all pose a serious crash risk, he said.

The cardinal rule: Wear protective equipment. “A good helmet should be worn to help avoid serious head injuries in the event of a crash,” Dr. Moffitt said.

Orthopedically, e-scooter crash injuries can include fractures in the back, arms and legs.

“Many of these may require surgery,” Dr. Moffitt said. Wrist guards and kneepads can help prevent common fall fractures.

Riders should also be aware of local laws that dictate where e-scooters can be used, as these are meant to keep them safe.

“For people who’ve been in an accident, it’s important to get appropriate medical care,” Dr. Moffitt said. “Anyone who hits their head, has an open wound, or a limb that is deformed or unable to bear weight should go right away to an emergency room for an appropriate evaluation of their injuries.”

Riders with less severe injuries—suspected broken bones without deformity or over-lying open wounds, for instance—can go to Spectrum Health’s Orthopedic Urgent Care clinic, which offers daytime, evening and weekend hours.

“E-scooters are a fast and convenient form of transportation and help to lessen traffic congestion, especially in dense, high-traffic areas,” said senior author Dr. Benjamin Breyer, a urologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

“But we’re very concerned about the significant increase in injuries and hospital admissions that we documented, particularly during the last year and especially with young people, where the proportion of hospital admissions increased 354%,” he added in a university news release.

Health officials nationwide are alarmed by the number of fractures, dislocations and head injuries showing up in trauma centers from e-scooter accidents, researchers noted.

A likely reason: Few regulations for e-scooter use exist, particularly about the need to wear a helmet.

Only 2% to 5% of injured riders wore helmets, the study found.

Researchers think mandatory helmet use would dramatically reduce the number of head injuries from e-scooter accidents.

For the study, they reviewed data from a nationwide injury reporting system.

Between 2014 and 2018, almost 40,000 injuries from powered scooters were reported nationwide, the study found.

The accident rate more than tripled over that period—from 6 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 19 in 2018.

The most common injuries were fractures (27%), scrapes and bruises (23%) and cuts (14%).

In all, 78% of injuries happened in cities.

But researchers said the figures may underestimate the true size of the problem as some injured e-scooter riders don’t seek emergency room care.

The report was published online recently in the journal JAMA Surgery.