The death of Dave Goldberg, the chief executive of SurveyMonkey.com, from a head injury after he fell off an exercise treadmill while vacationing was characterized as a bizarre freak accident in some media reports that broke the news this week.
But, in fact, serious injuries involving exercise equipment — treadmills in particular — are among the most common that hospital emergency rooms treat across the country.
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According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, treadmill-related injuries account for 24,000 emergency room visits each year. In addition, CPSC figures show:
• 460,000 people were treated at hospitals for injuries related to exercise in 2012 — the latest year for which complete statistics are available.
• While the vast majority — nearly 428,000 — were treated and released for minor injuries, 32,000 people were hospitalized or were dead on arrival.
• 62,700 injuries involved exercise equipment — including treadmills, weights, swimming pools, golf clubs, and trampolines.
• At least 30 reported deaths have been linked to the use of treadmills since 2003 — an average of about three a year.
• Most common exercise equipment-related injuries include broken bones, abrasions, head injuries, and people developing chest pain while working out on the machines.
Goldberg, 47, who was married to Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, was at a resort in Punta Mita, Mexico, with family and friends at the time of his death Friday night.
Mexican government officials said he died of head trauma after he collapsed at the resort’s gym while exercising alone on a treadmill, hitting the back of his head. He reportedly suffered head trauma and hypovolemic shock from blood loss, according to a statement from the state attorney general’s office in Nayarit.
Efforts to revive him at the gym and at nearby San Javier Hospital in Nuevo Vallarta were unsuccessful and Goldberg died at the hospital, the attorney general’s office said.
Earlier this year, Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, also suffered a serious exercise equipment-related incident. He was hospitalized after he was reportedly propelled into a bathroom cabinet after a mishap with an exercise band.
The senator, 75, broke bones in his face and multiple ribs, and also sustained a concussion, and lost sight in his right eye.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of adults aged 65 and older fall each year and suffer moderate to severe injuries — such as hip fractures and head traumas.
Such injuries, which often result from exercise, can increase the risk of early death, the CDC reports. According to federal statistics:
• 1 in 3 seniors falls each year.
• Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.
• In 2013, 2.5 million nonfatal falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 734,000 people were hospitalized.
• In 2013, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, were $34 billion.
• Up to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas.
• Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries — and half of fatal falls among older adults are due to TBI.
Fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable. To stay safe, health experts advise:
Chan Gannaway, a certified personal trainer and the fitness education director at Orangetheory Fitness, recommends the following tips for a safe treadmill training experience:
- Work at a place where you feel under control.
- Identify where the "emergency stop" button or cord is located.
- Do not jump onto the rails while training on the treadmill.
- Keep your eyes and head forward at all times. If you turn your head, your body tends to follow.
- Do not leave your treadmill running to exit the treadmill for any reason.
It's also a good idea to exercise with a friend, and not alone; in case of an emergency someone can help you. You should also ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to identify those that may cause side effects, lightheadedness, dizziness, or drowsiness.
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