A study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas says that falling TVs pose a significant risk to kids, with many having been injured and some even killed as a result of unstable television sets.
Parents hear lots of warnings about children and television, but a new alert has nothing to do with what the kids might be watching.
The TV set itself could be dangerous, says a study published this month by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Many children are injured by climbing on TVs and toppling them.
"It was surprising how frequently we saw it and how frequently there was a brain injury with it," said Dr. Todd Maxson, a report co-author.
Maxson is leaving Dallas to become medical director of a trauma and injury prevention program that’s being created at Children’s Hospital of Austin. He will educate parents and others about preventable childhood injuries, and toppling TVs will certainly be a topic, especially now that he’s armed with the data, he said.
The study urges parents to use straps to secure their TVs to supporting furniture.
U.S. emergency room doctors treated 2,600 children younger than 5 who were injured by falling televisions in 2005, said Arlene Flecha, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
At Children’s Medical Center Dallas, the researchers examined the cases of 26 children who came to the ER after being injured by a falling TV during the year that ended in October 2004. Most of the children — 14 — had head injuries, and nine required hospitalization.
None died, although two spent time in the intensive care unit, according to the study, published in the June issue of the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.
The researchers, Maxson and two other doctors at UT Southwestern, interviewed the parents. The parents told the doctors that none of the TVs was secured. Eighty-five percent of the parents said they had no idea that the TVs could cause such injuries.
"Prevention is the key, but unless we know what we’re dealing with, it’s hard to prevent," said Dr. Floyd Ota, the lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics. "Our study was the first that talked to parents at the time of the event . . . and we found that most of them were caused by the toddler climbing on the furniture. Someone was trying to grab something."
The median age of the child was 40 months. All but one of the injuries happened at home.
Although nearly two-thirds of the TVs in the study were in the 20-inch to 30-inch range, the researchers said they could not determine whether size had anything to do with the hazard.
" ‘The bigger the TV, the worse the injury’ makes sense, but we don’t know," Ota said. "We don’t have enough cases."
Dr. Pat Crocker, chief of emergency medicine at Brackenridge and Children’s hospitals in Austin, said he sees similar injuries locally.
Although most aren’t serious, "we have had at least one skull fracture that I recall, and I think a more serious intracranial bleed," Crocker said.
Even more common are injuries caused by kids climbing on bookcases and dressers, he said.
"TV, dressers and bookcases — anything heavy a young child can pull down or climb up — should really be secured to prevent the accident," Crocker said.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated in 2004 that 8,000 to 10,000 people, most of them children, are treated every year in U.S. emergency rooms for injuries linked to furniture tip-overs. About six die of those injuries.
The Dallas researchers propose that warning labels be put on TVs to make more parents aware of the hazard. They said a campaign by the product safety commission in the 1980s and 1990s led to voluntary labels on vending machines after many adolescents were injured or killed from tip-overs.
Today, vending machines are commonly secured to the floor or the wall to prevent such accidents, the study says.