School board member’s hoverboard fall only latest

School Board member Erica Whitfield is certainly not the first person to fall off a hoverboard, but she can count herself among the lucky she and her doctors agree.

She broke her back, shattering a vertabra just below her neck, yet she didn’t damage her spinal cord. Surgeons have used cement to stabilize the bone, and, while she is under orders to sit still for now, she’s not paralyzed and is expected to be walking around within weeks.

Hoverboards have been a hot safety topic for about two years – literally hot. 

In December 2015, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced it was investigating what was causing some hoverboards to catch fire.

But gravity was also a concern. Reports of falls spiked at Christmas.

“While the fire hazard has generated significant attention, I do not want to downplay the fall hazard. CPSC has received dozens of reports of injuries from hospital ERs … Some of these injuries have been serious, including concussions, fractures, contusions/abrasions, and internal organ injuries. Always wear a helmet and padding while using this product,” CPSC’s Chairman Elliot F. Kaye said in a statement at the time.

Just three days after Christmas that year, the commission had noted 70 ER visits due to hoverboards and was  still counting.

Dr. Jaime Marchand, an emergency room physician at Palm Beach Children’s Hospital at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, says he hasn’t seen many hoverboard falls – yet.

“I’m sure like the Wheelies (sneakers with retractable wheels), as they progress in popularity, we’ll see the number of falls rise,” Marchand said.

The famous fall too.

A quick check of YouTube seems to confirm Marchand’s forecast.

The “fallen” have included South Florida congressman Carlos Curbelo who fell from his nephew’s hoverboard.

2015 tweet from the congressman.

2015 tweet from the congressman.

CNN at the time also reported:

Athletic skill doesn’t guarantee safety. Baseball player Dan Uggla fell off a hoverboard while listening to Justin Bieber. His wife posted a video of the minor spill on Instagram.

BBC North America editor Jon Sopel tweeted that his son Max hurt his wrist on a hoverboard and ended up in a hospital. Twitter user Syl said her father fell off a hoverboard and went to the hospital.

Jordan Anthony fell after mixing last year’s dangerous tech habit, extreme selfies, with a hoverboard.

Banned in some places… including the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room

Not only are those riding hoverboards at risk, so is anyone standing nearby.

“As a result, some jurisdictions have enacted laws to preclude their use.  As of July 2016, hover boards are illegal or banned on New York City sidewalks, British streets and many airports, airlines, shopping malls, and in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room,” according to the folks at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, who promptly sent me a long email that covered the definition of a hover board to the various brands that make them to their range of speeds and prices.

 

Wear the helmet and pads

Marchand advises people of all ages to wear helmet and pads on hoverboards, skates and bikes. And even then, know that injuries can happen.

Such equipment wouldn’t have shielded Whitfield’s back, she said. She said her biggest mistake, other than stepping on the board, was moving after she fell.

She didn’t realize the extent of her injury, and Marchand says, she could’ve made it worse, jostling broken bones so close to her spinal cord.

“She’s very lucky,” Marchand said. ” The higher the injury, the more devastating it can be.”

Perhaps this guy has the right idea – or not.