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Thousands of children injured in infant walkers

September 17, 2018

Though many parents still put their young children in infant walkers, the devices caused thousands of injuries between 1990 and 2014. That’s according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which is calling on the devices to be banned.

The study, published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics, found that more than 230,000 children younger than 15 months old were treated in hospital emergency departments in the country for infant walker-related injuries from 1990 through 2014.

The good news is that of infant walker-related injuries decreased dramatically during the study period, dropping from 20,650 in 1990 to 2,001 in 2014. Researchers said the decline was primarily due to a decrease in falls down stairs, which, in turn, was attributed to a change in the way infant walkers were designed.

In 1997, a voluntary safety standard was adopted that required infant walkers to be wider than a standard doorway or to have a mechanism that would cause it to stop if one of more of the wheels drop over the edge of a step. In June 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a mandatory safety standard that included more stringent requirements for infant walker design, standardized the evaluation method to prevent stair falls, and added a parking brake test.

While the greatest decrease in injuries occurred during the earlier years of the study, there was an additional 23 percent drop in injuries in the four years after the federal mandatory safety standard went into effect in 2010 compared with the prior four years.

According to the study, roughly 91 percent of injuries were to the head or neck, and about 30 percent of the injuries were concussions/closed head injuries or skull fractures. The three leading causes of injuries were falls down stairs, falls out of the infant walker, and injuries that occurred because the infant walker gave the child access to something they wouldn’t normally be able to reach (mostly burns from hot objects).

“Infant walkers give quick mobility (up to 4 feet per second) to young children before they are developmentally ready. Despite the decrease in injuries over the years, there are still too many serious injuries occurring related to this product,” said Dr. Gary Smith, , senior author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in a news release. “Because of this, we support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ call for a ban on the manufacture, sale, and importation of infant walkers in the US.”

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