Infant Walkers Linked To Thousands Of Child Injuries: Report

New research indicates that more than 9,000 children suffer injuries from infant walkers every year, including reports of skull fractures and other serious injuries. 

While infant walkers were once thought to be a staple for infant gear, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now calling for a complete ban on the baby walkers, citing an unreasonable risk of serious and life-threatening injuries.

In the September issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System between 1990 to 2014, focusing on infant walker injuries among children 15 months and younger who were treated in emergency rooms throughout the United States.

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Researchers analyzed data to determine the effect of a 2010 federally mandated safety standard for infant walkers.

The data suggests that more than 230,000 children under 15 months old were treated for injuries linked to infant walkers.

More than 90% of children who suffered injuries in infant walkers suffered a head or neck injury. Approximately three-quarters of children were injured by falling down the stairs in the walker.

Other causes of injury from infant walkers included falling out of the device or injuries sustained when a child pulled or touched an object while in the walker.

About 40% of the children who were admitted to the hospital suffered a fracture to the skull, the researchers found.

In 2010, regulators implemented new federal safety standards on infant walkers to help curb infant injuries.

Prior to the safety standard, walkers were designed to measure less than 36 inches wide, or smaller than the width of a standard doorway, allowing infants to easily move from room to room unobstructed. They also did not include breaking devices to help prevent an infant in the walker from toppling over the edge of a step.

Overall, from 1990 to 2003 infant walker-related injuries decreased by 84.5%. Injures from infants falling down the stairs also decreased by 91%.

The average number of annual injures linked to infant walkers decreased by 23% during a four year period after the new standards were implemented, compared to the four year period before the new standards.

Researchers indicate other factor that may be linked to a decrease in injuries is the reduced prevalence of infant walkers in homes. Many families have stopped using older walkers which may be more hazardous and don’t meet safety standards. Additionally, increased public awareness of the safety hazards and injury risks infant walkers pose may have helped to reduce injuries.

Despite the decreases in injuries, researchers warn infant walkers still pose a safety risk to children. The AAP called for a complete ban on walkers with wheels. The association warned the devices do not offer infants any developmental advantage.

“Infant walkers remain an important and preventable source of injury among young children, which supports the American Academy of Pediatrics’ call for a ban on their manufacture and sale in the United States,” wrote study authors.

Other countries, like Canada, have completely banned infant walkers in an effort to prevent unnecessary injuries. The association recommends the United States follow suit.

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