Tread Carefully on Treadmills

A couple of weeks ago, renowned Silicon Valley executive Dave Goldberg died of severe head trauma and blood loss after a gym accident involving a treadmill. His untimely death at 47 raised the profile of a device whose risks had previously gone mostly unnoticed.

Treadmill accidents, according to the Boston Globe, injure thousands of people in the U.S. every year. They’re very popular for maintaining fitness, but they also pose a risk of injury if you’re not paying attention or if the machine isn’t maintained properly.

In 2014, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 24,400 injuries associated with treadmills were treated in hospital emergency rooms. In 2012, treadmills topped the list of exercise equipment that sent people to the emergency room.

Deaths are rare, but in addition to Goldberg, another well-known fatality associated with a treadmill was that of the 4-year-old daughter of heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson, who died in 2009 after she accidentally was strangled by a treadmill cord.

Keith Mills, a 50-something resident of Massachusetts, suffered a more common treadmill injury a few years ago. He stepped onto a treadmill at the gym one day, but didn’t notice it was already running. He fell face first, then was thrown backward against the wall. He suffered a concussion, broken nose and wrist injury.

Treadmills can give you a great aerobic workout, especially when the weather is too awful to exercise outdoors. But you must start and stop them properly, and avoid distractions during your workout. If you feel lightheaded, weak or unstable, know how to stop the machine immediately with the pull cord that disrupts the power supply.

Don’t use a cellphone while working out on a treadmill, and if you’re not completely familiar and comfortable with the device, don’t even listen to music through headphones or earbuds. Any distraction can cause an injury.

More tips for treadmill safety:

  • Look forward during the whole workout.
  • Don’t rely on the handrails to keep you upright and stable; if you can’t walk without rail assistance, slow the machine down.
  • Start by straddling the deck, begin slowly and increase speed gradually.
  • Always wear closed shoes (no bare feet, sandals or flip-flops).
  • Minimize side-to-side head movement.
  • Don’t don’t step off a moving treadmill; always stop the moving belt before dismounting.
  • Keep children away from the machine.
  • Don’t back the machine up against the wall; leave plenty of space behind it.

Treadmills are safe if you place and use them properly. Mills continues to work out on the treadmill four times a week, according to The Globe, but never with a cellphone, listening to music “or anything I think would be a distraction,” he told the paper.

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