Hoverboard Injury Risk and Fires Lead to Safety Concerns This Holiday Season

Growing safety concerns have emerged about the risk of serious injuries and fires caused by the popular new “hoverboard” style, self-balancing scooters, leading several major retailers to ban sale of the products, and government safety officials have opened an investigation after receiving dozens of reports involving fires and incidents that resulted in the need for emergency room treatments. 

One of the most popular holiday gifts this year are Segway-like hoverboards, which have two wheels and a platform for each foot. Powered by an electronic motor with lithium-ion batteries, the boards allow riders to move forward by small shifts in their balance, operating like a Segway without handles. However, the devices have already been linked to a number of problems.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that there have already been at least 30 hospitalization reports from individuals falling off of the hoverboard scooters, and at least 10 hoverboard fires, including one incident that completely destroyed a customer’s home.

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The hoverboard injury reports indicate that riders fell off of the devices and suffered a variety of different problems, including fractures, strains, sprains, contusions, lacerations, and head injuries.

Basil Besh, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons stated that doctors are seeing more trauma injuries related to the hoverboards, because riders without the best balance cannot handle to devices. Besh also commented that riders should be required to wear helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads, as to the hoverboards reaching speeds up to 12 mph.

At speeds up to 12 mph, hoverboard riders without protective safety gear could suffer long-term or even fatal head trauma injuries in the event of a fall, according to Besh.

Several major distributors have publicly announced they are refusing to sell and ship any style of hoverboard scooter after reports indicate the devices may catch on fire or blow up due to the lithium-ion batteries. Both Overstock and Amazon have both announced they will not be selling the boards, and several other major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target have made comments indicating they may not be holding the popular scooters this holiday season.

Many of the retailers refusing or contemplating selling the devices over the holiday season have claimed their refusals over safety concerns, whereas Wal-Mart reportedly claimed their refusal to sell the boards was over a patent dispute.

Recent reports indicate the hoverboard scooters pose a serious risk of overheating, burns, and fires. Within the CPSC’s new probe, it will be investigating 10 fire-related hoverboard incidents in nine states, said spokesman Scott Wolfson. Wolfson stated that the fires appear to be caused by the hoverboard’s lithium-ion batteries, which have caused massive fire related recalls in the past with mobile phones and laptop computers experiencing similar problems.

One hoverboard scooter fire was reported by a Louisiana mom who bought her 12-year-old son a hoverboard. The mom, Jessica Horne, told the New York Post that the hoverboard’s lithium-ion batteries were hooked up to the charging station when the middle of the board blew up, causing her entire house to be engulfed in flames within just minutes. Firefighters and fire responders rushed to the scene to put out of the blazing fire, which has reportedly destroyed her home and almost killed her pet dog.

CPSC safety development experts have claimed that the lithium-ion batteries within the boards will most likely have to be modified to curb the fire risk similar to how phones and laptops were a decade ago. The investigation will aim to reveal the issue and most likely result in new requirements and standards for the devices. Officials also claim that most of these hoverboard hybrid style skateboards are being manufactured in China, under unregulated conditions.

Image Credit: Image via 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

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