Though strollers and carriers are typically considered a parent’s godsend, the devices meant to keep kids safe from dangers of the outside world can sometimes be their biggest threat, a new study shows.
Nearly 361,000 children ages 5 and younger were treated in emergency rooms across the U.S. for stroller- and carrier-related injuries between 1990 and 2010 — almost 17,200 every year — according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Analyzing data collected by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the Columbus, Ohio-based center determined that works out to about two children every hour, or about 50 a day.
“While these products are used safely by families every day, when injuries do occur they can be quite serious,” study author and research associate Kristi Roberts said in a statement.
"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 said.
Most injuries involved the child’s head and face and occurred when a child fell from a stroller or carrier when the device tipped over, the study said.
Though many children experienced bumps and bruises, one-quarter of stroller injuries and more than one-third of carrier injuries resulted in traumatic brain injuries or concussions.
The proportion of stroller-related brain injuries doubled during the study period from 19 to 42 percent, while the proportion of carrier-related brain injuries tripled from 18 to 53 percent. Researchers warned that the drastic increases could be accounted for a wide array of reasons, including medical professionals’ increasing awareness of the seriousness of head injuries.
Researchers noted devices can be especially dangerous when used improperly, cautioning parents from overloading a stroller or carrier, from leaving it on an uneven surface and from leaving their children in the device unbuckled.
“As parents, we place our most precious cargo in strollers and carriers every day,” she said. “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.”
Critics of the study were quick to cast judgment online at parents and caregivers they believed were likely responsible for injuries looked at by researchers.
"People want to blame strollers and car seats for their own stupidity," one commenter wrote on Facebook.
“More people don’t have common sense anymore so of course this is happening,” another person opined.
But attorney Ken Moll of the Chicago-based Moll Law Group argued that many injuries he sees stem from products that eventually are — or have already been — pulled from the shelves.
"Most have to do with products that were already recalled, or banned, or released when there were different standards," Moll told InsideEdition.com. "They may have been approved under less stringent standards and that’s the major problem. The phrase 'newer is always better' is true in this case."
The newer a stroller or carrier is, the more stringent safety guidelines are that manufacturers have to comply with before rolling out a new product, Moll said, noting that it wasn't until about 10 years ago that such standards became the law of the land.
“Through the years, the safety standards have become better,” he explained. “But they are still selling these [inadequate] products at the flea market, second [hand] stores, [people can] buy them online — there are a lot of products being sold online that can’t be sold in stores because they don’t meet the current safety guidelines,” he explained.
In the 21-year span the study looked at, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued 43 stroller-related recalls and 13 infant carrier-related recalls for injury risks that included falls, entrapment, strangulation, choking hazards, amputations and lacerations, the study said, calling those numbers, “clear evidence that strollers and carriers pose a significant risk for injury.”
“I’ve heard so many stories and met with too many parents who lost a child,” Moll said, recalling a particularly tragic case that always "sticks out" in his memory.
About 15 years ago, a child sat in their stroller in their parent’s kitchen. Without warning, the stroller tipped, and with it went the child.
“They hit on the side of the kitchen counter,” Molls said. “The child subsequently died from a head injury. Just terrible, some of these stories.”
Despite industry safety monitoring of strollers and carriers, including product recalls, updates to manufacturing standards and product testing, patterns of injury associated with strollers and carriers are similar to those identified more than a decade ago, the study showed.
“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,” Roberts said.
Moll agreed, saying he hopes the study — the first of its kind to report national estimates and rates for these types of injuries — will hopefully serve as a motivator to make a push to make these devices safer.
“Hopefully government agencies will look at this and say ‘we have to do more,’” he said. “And hopefully studies like this will show [manufacturers]: 'Hey, now you’re aware of the foreseeability of this conduct. It’s happening every day, many times a day and this is the type of conduct that you have to design around.'"