After running a study on the frequency and severity of dental and maxillofacial injuries associated with electric-powered bikes and scooters, a University of Alberta professor wants to see more education and possibly even more enforcement and legislation.
Dr. Liran Levin, a professor of periodontology at the School of Dentistry, and the president-elect of the International Association of Dental Traumatology, led a study. It was based on e-scooter- and e-bike-related injuries in Israel between 2014 and 2019.
Out of 3,686 hospital admissions from electric bikes and scooter injuries, 378 (10.3 per cent) were specific to oral and maxillofacial injuries.
“In the last five or seven years, there has been a 13-fold increase in hospitalizations of patients due to accidents with e-bikes and scooters,” Levin said.
“That should be alarming. It’s a constant rise, a constant increase in the numbers . . . We’re talking about not just simple injuries — even if you need a few stitches, you won’t be included in this study unless you were admitted to the hospital and stayed there for more than 24 hours.
“We saw that about 10 per cent of those injuries are involving the oral cavity . . . either the soft tissue or teeth or the jaw or bones that are in the oral area,” Levin said.
“That’s something that we need to be alarmed about and maybe emphasize when we’re educating people about the use of these tools.”
While similar data on this topic is not available in Canada, Levin said parallels can be drawn and municipalities can take a proactive approach to education and prevention.
“I think the main message is to be proactive and start with education and maybe better enforcement of prevention methods like helmets, maybe even mouth guards. It seems like a very simple and innocent tool — everyone can take it and have fun — but it’s not as innocent as it looks.”
Another important finding? E-bike and e-scooter injuries were being reported in both riders and pedestrians.
“Most of the pedestrians were either kids below the age of 15 or elderly, which probably means they’re more prone to be hurt in a more severe way and thus require hospitalization,” Levin said.
He also compared the injury rate of e-bikes and e-scooters to that of traditional bicycles.
“We see a lot more injuries in electronic bikes and scooters than we’re seeing in regular bicycles.
“The majority of those, surprisingly, do not involve other vehicles; it’s mainly the scooters with pedestrians or with something in the surroundings . . . There were still accidents with cars but let’s say about 60 per cent of them were without the involvement of another vehicle.”
Dr. Eddy Lang, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, spoke with Global News in August 2019 about the number of hospital visits connected to e-scooters.
For a study, his team combed through the electronic health record used in Calgary to see when the word “scooter” was used by patients as they described to how they were injured.
By August 2019, some 60 patients had visited Calgary emergency rooms with e-scooter-related injuries. Of those, most were fractures but some were head injuries.
Lang said, because of riders’ “precarious vertical position, people are falling off of these and as a result, we’re seeing mostly upper extremity injuries – people are hurting their wrists and elbows.”
The maximum speed for the vehicles is 20 km/h and it’s illegal to use them while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.