Businessman Dave Goldberg’s death at 47 was shocking in itself, but that it occurred after an injury suffered while working out on a treadmill is, for many, particularly stunning.
Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey and husband of Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, apparently fell off a treadmill at a private villa at a Mexican resort Friday and suffered a fatal head injury.
His death has raised concerns about the safety of using the exercise machine that is popular at gyms and at home. Though death is rare, tens of thousands of Americans are injured each year on treadmills.
Here are five things you need to know about the fairly common piece of equipment:
In 2014, hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. treated more than 24,000 treadmill-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Between 2003 and 2012, there were 30 deaths reported from treadmill use.
The vast majority of injuries are sprains and strains. Dr. Shahram Lotfipour, director of UC Irvine’s Center for Trauma & Injury Prevention Research, said he’s never seen a serious treadmill injury.
Lotfipour said it might be easier to lose your balance on a treadmill than while running outside because of the treadmill’s moving surface.
“The worst thing about the treadmill is it’s going to keep moving after you fall,” he said.
While entertainment might take your mind off a grueling workout, it also might take your feet off the treadmill belt.
Some high-end treadmills have built-in TV screens or touch screens where users can access games, social media or any of the apps available on a smartphone or tablet. Runners often also carry their own devices.
Cori Lefkowith, a personal trainer who owns Redefining Strength in Costa Mesa, said treadmills become dangerous when users split their attention watching TV or texting.
“It’s the fact that they’re really not focusing,” she said. “If you really need to text or make a call, hop off the machine or pause it for a second. If you’re in the gym, put that stuff away. It’s time to unplug; it’s time to relax. We think we can multitask but we really can’t.”
Treadmill accidents don’t just happen to those old enough to train heavily. In 2009, boxer Mike Tyson’s 4-year-old daughter died after she was accidentally strangled by a cord connected to a home treadmill while her mother cleaned in another room.
A 2013 study of injuries from home exercise machines found treadmills were the biggest culprit and that children under 5 were the most likely to get hurt.
“These are inherently curious kids,” said one of the study’s authors, Janessa Graves, a professor at Washington State University College of Nursing.
“One way to prevent those injuries is to keep kids entirely away from the machines, make sure they’re behind locked doors. When they are in use, make sure kids aren’t around.”
Graves said positioning a treadmill facing a doorway or using a mirror will allow parents to see if a child approaches the back of the treadmill.
High-end equipment, which can cost more than $4,000, comes with more powerful motors. Graves said they can be more dangerous and consumers might not be prepared to operate treadmills so strong.
She and other medical experts advise using common sense and knowing how to use equipment before cranking up the speed. At a commercial gym, ask an employee for help.
Consumer Reports advises the following:
• Keep the area around the treadmill clear. That will prevent a runner from getting pinned between a wall and the machine in the event of a fall. Clearance requirements vary, so follow manufacturer’s recommendations.
• Use the safety key. Clip one end onto your shirt while the other end stays plugged into the console. If you fall, the key will pop out and the treadmill will stop.
• Avoid starting the treadmill while standing on the belt. Instead, straddle the deck and allow the belt to start moving gradually before stepping on.
• Come to a complete stop before stepping off the machine. Know where the emergency shut-off button is in case you need to stop immediately.
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P.S. Treadmills are great machines on which to exercise, but my preference is to run outside on a grassy surface. There is less overall stress on your body and you are breathing fresh air.
P.P.S. For more information on various cardio routines visit How to Prevent Pre-diabetes today.