Hoverboards 101 – What you need to know

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Hoverboards

Hoverboards 101 – The user manual for one brand of hoverboard warns users about the risk of injury and even death. Even though there is small script in the user manual of one of the hoverboards which states that , “No matter when and where, there is a possibility you may crash, fall off, lose control, etc., causing injury and even death,” and “the likelihood of injury or death will increase if you don’t follow the proper operating instructions in this manual,”  ER visits are skyrocketing from falls and injuries after using the hoverboards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission expects as the popularity of the boards jumps, so will visits to hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices.  They expect to see such injuries as ankle injuries, tailbone and back, bruises and abrasions.  In addition, injuries will include concussions or head injury, especially with kids not wearing helmets.

The product, available from several manufacturers, is powered by a lithium battery and operated by leaning in and balancing. Here’s some tips to help you navigate the pros and cons, and the safety risks of the hoverboard.

One of the surprising things about the hoverboards is they have a tendency to shoot out from under you if you are not balanced so that can be dangerous just because they are self powered.  One of the most important reasons to wear a helmet.  You can find yourself on your back quicker than you can snap your finger.   Riding the board successfully requires a person to balance, which requires a lot of core abdominal strength, according to Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.  He says the devices are problematic for several reasons.  “If you have a weak core or weak set of abdominal muscles, there is an increased risk of falling forward or backward, which can cause elbow fractures, ankle injuries, wrist fractures and there is a risk for traumatic brain injury or concussion,” Glatter told USA TODAY Network.

The electric boards require riders to steer with their feet and can also cause harm to others if the person isn’t in control of the board. While celebrities and advertisements for the hoverboards may not show people wearing protection, Glatter said people should protect themselves if they chose to use the boards.

But if you have a strong core, with a little practice and a lot of balance, these hoverboards can be easy to use. With practice (seriously, lean forward, go forward) you are on your way. As you get more comfortable on your board, it becomes easier to maneuver.

Tips to safely ride a hoverboard:

1.  Wear protection, and not just a helmet. That means you “have” to wear a helmet, pad around the knees, elbows and wrists.  People have broken their tailbones from falling backward off of the hoverboards, so padding the lower back is also a good idea, according to Glatter.
2.  Hoverboards probably aren’t a good idea for everyone. When it comes to riding a hoverboard, not all ages are equal. “The elderly should be cautious because of the amount of balance and core abdominal strength required to balance on these devices,” Glatter said.
3.  If you are using a hoverboard, avoid crowds unless you feel completely comfortable with the board.
4.  When using the board, avoid using cell phones or listening to music. Focus on using the board, so you avoid collisions with cars or people.
5.  Parents should use caution when buying the boards for children, especially because of the control needed to operate the board.
6.  Additional safety tips from Swagway that came from a News Agency out of Washington D.C., they recommended that people 12 and up, with a minimum weight of 40 pounds, operate the Swagway.
7.   People need to read the manual.
8.  Properly calibrate the board.

Another potential problem, hoverboards are catching fire due to charging problems.   As one user manual warns,  “Over-worked lithium batteries can explode. Excessive discharge due to modification (over-volting) is dangerous.”

CPSC is concerned enough that they have released a statement warning consumers of all the risks of the hoverboards pertaining to fire-risks and fall-risks.  As the head of the CPSC said in the statement: “I am … concerned that there is no safety standard in place for hoverboards.  Strong safety standards protect consumers. Retailers should always be asking their suppliers if there is an applicable safety standard in place before agreeing to sell those products.  The absence of any standard should cause retailers to require extra proof of sound design, manufacturing and quality control processes.”

CPSC  gives these warnings for Hoverboards:

  • Avoid buying the product at a location (like a mall kiosk) or on a website that does not have information about who is selling the product and how they can be contacted if there is a problem.  If you do not think you could find the seller again, were a problem to arise with your board, that should be a warning to you not to do business with them.
  • Do not charge a hoverboard overnight or when you are not able to observe the board.
  • Charge and store in an open dry area away from combustibles (meaning items that can catch fire).
  • Do not charge directly after riding.  Let the device cool for an hour before charging.
  • If giving a hoverboard to someone for the holidays, leave it in its partially charged state.  Do not take it out of the package to bring it to a full charge and then wrap it back up. Often, the product comes partially charged.  Leave it in that state until it is ready to be used.
  • Look for the mark of a certified national testing laboratory.  While this does not rule out counterfeits, the absence of such a mark means your safety is likely not a priority for that manufacturer.
  • Do not ride near vehicular traffic.
  • This tip needs to be reiterated: It is important to wear safety gear when using a hoverboard.  We recommend the same safety gear that you would wear when riding a skateboard — a skateboard helmet, and knee and elbow pads and wrist guards for protection from falls.

They urge consumers to report incidents to CPSC via www.SaferProducts.gov.

Hoverboards can be fun, but first they need to be safe!

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