Exercise injuries on rise, warn doctors


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Doctors are seeing more people with injuries related to treadmill use — and one Providence orthopedic surgeon believes it’s because more people are exercising in general.

Last year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had about 24,000 treadmill-related injuries reported. From 2003 to 2012, there were 30 deaths associated with treadmills. The concern stems from the shocking death of David Goldberg, the husband of Facebook executive and author Sheryl Sandberg, while exercising at a vacation resort May 1.

“The incidents have been increasing over the last couple years,” said Dr. Keith Monchik, a sports medicine specialist with the Orthopedics Institute for Rhode Island, Miriam and Newport Hospitals.

The main reason people get hurt is because they spend too much time on the machine, said Dr. Monchik. “They may not be in the shape they should be. And — being distracted, watching television and doing the phone — they’ve been on the treadmill or exercise equipment for thirty, forty minutes.”

Dr. Monchik says that can lead to a pulled tendon or achilles tendonitis. The distractions can also increase the possibility of falling off the treadmill.

Sometimes the injuries are exceptional: “We do get our share of broken bones, lacerations, small amounts of concussions; those are the rare types of injuries that we see,” he said.

Toni Bonadie, a yoga teacher, was eyewitness to a startling incident: “A few years ago, I saw a woman on a treadmill — she was an older woman and I guess she didn’t realize how fast it was going… The treadmill just kept going, and sent her flying backwards.”

To stay safe on any exercise machine, Dr. Monchik advises:

— Avoid distractions like cell phones and TVs.

— Remove items like towels from the machine, so they don’t get caught in gears or mechanisms.

If you’re older, get a physical checkup to make sure you’re in the right shape to use the equipment.

If it’s a treadmill with a safety device — like a clip that immediately halts operation when it’s pulled away from the console — use it.

“That’ll stop the exercise device if you do happen to get into trouble,” Dr. Monchik said.