Strollers and baby carriers are essential resources for parents to transport babies and infants safely while on the move. However, a study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, shows that several injuries occur through the improper use of these products. Additionally, traumatic brain injury as a result of stroller- or carrier-related mishaps are on the rise.

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Nationwide Children’s Hospital has found that two children an hour are treated at the hospital for stroller- and carrier-related injuries.

According to Nationwide Children’s, an average of one child aged 5 years and younger is treated in hospital emergency departments every 45 minutes for a stroller-related injury in the United States.

The study, published in Academic Pediatrics, determined injuries associated with stroller and wearable carriers in the U.S. between 1990-2010 using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The NEISS database provides information on U.S. consumer product-related and sports- and recreation-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.

Almost 361,000 children under 5 years were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for stroller- or carrier-related injuries in the 21-year period, which equates to about two children every hour.

While many of the injuries experienced through stroller- or carrier-related accidents are minor soft tissue injuries like bumps and bruises, 39 percent are for strollers and 48 percent are for carriers. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) – or concussions – account for 25 percent of stroller-related injuries and 35 percent of carrier-related injuries.

The study revealed that throughout the study duration, the proportions of stroller-related TBIs doubled, from 19 percent of injuries in 1990 to 42 percent of injuries in 2010. The percentage of carrier-related TBIs tripled, from 18 percent of injuries in 1990 to 53 percent of injuries in 2010.

Most injuries occurred as a result of children falling from the stroller or carrier, at 67 percent and 63 percent, respectively. Sixteen percent of stroller and 29 percent of carrier injuries occurred when the product tipped over.

The head (43 percent stroller, 62 percent carrier) and face (31 percent stroller, 25 percent carrier) were the most frequently injured parts of the body.

“While these products are used safely by families every day, when injuries do occur they can be quite serious,” says study author Kristi Roberts, research associate in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s.

“The majority of injuries we saw were head injuries which is scary considering the fact that traumatic brain injuries and concussions in young children may have long-term consequences on cognitive development,” she adds.

Most children are sent home after receiving treatment in the emergency room post-injury. However, 7 percent of children with injuries from carriers and 2 percent of children with stroller-related injuries were hospitalized.

TBIs accounted for 65 percent of stroller-related and 79 percent of carrier-related hospitalizations.

“As parents, we place our most precious cargo in strollers and carriers every day,” says Roberts. “By taking a few simple steps like making sure your child is buckled up every time he is in his stroller or carrier and being aware of things that can cause these products to tip over can help prevent many of these injuries.”

Nationwide Children’s provide tips for parents and child caregivers to help to avoid stroller-related injuries:

  • Buckle up: ensure your child is strapped in and seated at all times
  • Keep bags off handles: heavy objects, like bags, can cause strollers to tip over. Either store your bag or purse on your shoulder or underneath the stroller in the basket
  • Stroller fit: strollers come in many shapes and sizes; aim for a stroller that matches the age and weight of your child
  • Brakes: be sure to put on the breaks while stationary to prevent the stroller rolling away
  • Check for recalls: check regularly to make sure the model of stroller you have bought or intend to use has not been recalled.

The center also provides tips to keep children safer in carriers and recommendations for safe babywearing.

While the number of overall injuries from strollers and carriers did go down during the 21 years we looked at in our study, it is still unacceptably high. The updates to voluntary manufacturer standards and frequent product recalls in recent years have been a good first step, but the large number of injuries we are still seeing shows we need to do more.”

Kristi Roberts

Read about how studying brain patterns during babies’ first steps could help improve spinal injury rehab.