Electric scooters might seem a fun way to zip about, but they’re also a pricey hazard to riders’ health, a new study argues.

Orthopedic treatment for 82 patients injured in e-scooter wrecks averaged more than $28,400 per person, as doctors labored to mend broken bones and dislocated joints.

“E-scooters go up to 20 miles per hour, but people are allowed to ride them on sidewalks with no safety equipment. It’s no surprise that many riders have had high-energy traumas, and their communities often absorb the cost,” said researcher Dr. Drew Sanders, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and residency program director at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

E-scooter injuries have increased dramatically in recent years, rising 22% between 2021 and 2022, according to a recent report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Dallas offers an e-scooter sharing program that was suspended in 2020 due to safety concerns but brought back in spring 2023, researchers said in background notes.

For their study, researchers analyzed medical records at Parkland Memorial Hospital, a public hospital that serves Dallas County. The hospital is funded by county residents through property taxes to provide safety-net care for those without insurance.

The team identified 82 patients treated between January 2017 and August 2020 for injuries linked to e-scooters.

About 7 in 10 patients were male, with an average age of 34.

The most common injuries were elbow and ankle fractures, although other types of fractures and dislocations occurred frequently.

About 30% of the cases required hospitalization, 23% needed ambulance transport and 15% needed an ER trauma team for treatment, results show.

Overall, orthopedic treatment of these patients cost more than $2.3 million, researchers said.

Because two-thirds of patients were either uninsured or insured by the public hospital system, the community bore most of this cost, Sanders said.

The new study was published recently in the Journal of Orthopaedic Business.

“Given the magnitude of associated health system costs demonstrated within this study, the financial burden to the city or taxpayers may be of additional consideration when regulating this burgeoning form of transportation,” the authors concluded in a journal news release. 

More information

The University of South Florida has more about e-scooter safety.

SOURCE: UT Southwestern Medical Center, news release, Jan. 17, 2024