Winter 2016 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Tricycle Injuries

Need Helmets!

Many young children ride tricycles. Between January 2012 and January 2014, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission collected data that showed an estimated 9340 trike riders were injured seriously enough to come to a hospital’s Emergency Department. Fifty-two percent of these injured children were between 1 and 2 years of age.

The number of children with tricycle injuries peaked at 2 years of age. Somewhat fewer children who were 3 years of age were injured. For 4 year olds, the number dropped to slightly more than half the number for 3 year olds. Thereafter, the numbers of children with trike injuries declined sharply. Most of the injured children were treated and released from the Emergency Department. 

Lacerations (cuts) were the most frequent type of injury. The face was cut more often than other body parts. Internal organ damage was a common injury for 3 year olds and 5 year olds. The brain was the most commonly injured internal organ. Note in the photo the children need to wear helmets. For 7-year-old children, 70% of the injuries were bruises of the face and head. Elbows were the most commonly broken bone.

A study conducted by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that most tricycle injuries were due to falls. These are thought to occur when the rider falls with a sudden turn of the front wheel that makes the rider lose balance and tip the trike over.

Injury prevention experts recommend the following changes to trikes to reduce the risks for riders: 

  • Decrease the handlebar’s turning radius.
  • Install a built-in device in the wheels that limits the maximum speed of the trike.
  • Provide a foot rest other than the pedals for children who are just learning to ride. 
  • Make sure that trike riders wear elbow pads and helmets to protect the most commonly injured body parts. This may make helmet-wearing a habit that carries over to bicycle riding. New Mexico has a law that requires trike users to wear a helmet. 
  • Do not allow trike riding on surfaces that lead to streets or sources of water.
  • Always provide close adult supervision of trike riders.

From Bandzar S et al. Tricycle Injuries Presenting to US Emergency Departments, 2012-2013. Pediatrics, 136:658-663 October 2015; Photo