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Just How Safe Are Wheeled Sneakers?
Although pediatricians do not usually play a big role in the selection of children's footwear, parents have begun to ask their doctors about wheeled sneakers-a popular item among school-aged children. More than 10 millions pairs of Heelys-the most common brand of roller sneakers-have been shipped since their introduction to the market 7 years ago.1 Sales continue to increase: more than 3 times as many pairs of Heelys were sold in 2006 as in 2005.2
In a study recently published in Pediatrics, Vioreanu and colleagues3 prospectively examined orthopedic injuries caused by roller sneakers, including Heelys as well as Street Gliders, which attach to the outside of a regular sneaker. Included in the study were 67 children treated in the orthopedic department of a children's hospital in Ireland during the summer of 2006 for injuries sustained while using roller sneakers.
The injured children ranged in age from 6 to 15 years: 83.5% were girls. The majority of the injuries (78%) were caused by Heelys as opposed to Street Gliders. Most of the injuries resulted from a fall backward or forward in an attempt to balance; 13% of the injuries occurred with jumps or rapid changes in direction. The injuries primarily involved the upper limbs; distal radial fractures were most common. Seventy percent of the injured children had only used roller sneakers between 1 and 5 times and considered themselves beginners.
To help prevent injuries from use of their product, manufacturers are now including user instructions with the sneakers. However, only 12% of the children injured were familiar with the instructions. None of the children were wearing any type of protective gear when they were injured. Similarly, in a previous study by Oh and colleagues4 in Singapore, none of the 37 injured chil-dren studied were wearing protective gear while using Heelys.
Both of these studies focused on orthopedic injuries. However, significant head injuries may also occur secondary to use of roller sneakers, as was seen in 1 patient in a study by Lenehan and colleagues.5 The number of patients studied in each of the articles was small, especially relative to the number of children who use Heelys, and injuries other than orthopedic problems were not the focus. In addition, despite the fact that 83.5% of the orthopedic injuries seen in the Vioreanu study were in girls, it is difficult to draw any conclusions from this. Does this mean that girls who wear Heelys are more likely to suffer injuries, or does it mean that more girls wear Heelys overall? Despite these limitations, the findings are still important.
Roller sneakers have been traditionally seen as shoes for everyday wear rather than as sporting gear. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends wearing helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards when skating, there is no official recommendation to do so while using roller sneakers.
As pediatricians, we need to inquire about the use of these shoes, and make parents aware of the potential dangers that Heelys and other roller sneakers may pose to children. These fashion items need to be seen as sporting gear rather than shoes for everyday use. In addition to reviewing the instructions provided with the sneakers, children must wear full protective gear when using Heelys to prevent serious injuries.
New study confirms HEELYS
safety. April 10, 2007. Available at:
. Accessed June 19, 2007.
Annual Reports. Available at:
. Accessed June 19, 2007.
Vioreanu M, Sheehan E, Glynn A, et al. Heelys and street gliders injuries: a new type of pediatric injury.
Oh D, Arjandas M, Lim KB, Lee EH. Heelys injuries in children.
Singapore Med J.
Lenehan B, Callender O, McIntyre A, et al. Heely injuries: a new epidemic warranting a government health warning!
2007 Jan 17; [Epub ahead of print].