It’s a Bird! it’s a Lime! It’s an e-scooter accident rolling into your ED!

By Austin Badeau, MD
PGY-3, University of Utah EM Residency

As many have likely noticed, a new transportation phenomenon has taken hold in the United States in the form of dockless electronic scooters, or e-scooters. E-scooters launched in Salt Lake City in the summer of 2018. Shortly thereafter, our providers at the University of Utah Emergency Department started treating injuries related to e-scooter trauma.

In association with residency research director Troy Madsen, I recently published a study entitled, “SCOOTER: Scooter AssoCiated MajOr and MinOr Trauma in Emergency Rooms”. This study sought to quantify and characterize the nature of these injuries. Over a five-month study period, we observed 50 e-scooter related injuries at the University of Utah and Salt Lake Regional Medical Center emergency departments.

We categorized injuries into the following groups: superficial soft tissue injury (20 patients, 40%), minor musculoskeletal injury (17 patients, 34%), major musculoskeletal injury (18 patients, 36%), minor head injury (6 patients, 12%), and major head injury (4 patients, 8%). Eight patients (16%) required hospital admission and seven (14%) had an injury requiring operative repair. Zero percent of patients in the study reported wearing a helmet.

Our results are consistent with another recently published study out of ULCA Medical Center, which reported 249 e-scooter related injuries with 100 (40.2%) head injuries and helmet use reported at a mere 4.4%. These findings are particularly troubling given what the medical community has learned about the short- and long-term sequelae of head trauma (even “minor” head trauma) in the last decade. As intended, the use of e-scooters can provide an economic and environmentally friendly means of commuting around cities, but safer riding practices is clearly a growing public safety issue that needs to be addressed by city officials and the e-scooter industry.