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Hidden danger: Treadmills can cause severe burns

By Nadine Wimmer | Posted - Jan. 19, 2010 at 10:30 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Your efforts to get in shape for the new year may pose an unintended safety risk for your children. Here's something to consider as cold weather has many people working out indoors.

When you start a New Year's resolution fitness plan, you're worried about shin splints and sore muscles -- not your child getting burned. But it can happen in a split second.

Johanna Palepoi's 19-month-old little boy, Chase, got an unlikely injury when he stepped onto the family's moving treadmill.

"His hand got caught between the belt and the plastic part of the treadmill, just kind of right in between here, and we panicked," Palepoi said.

They rushed Chase to the emergency room with severe burns on his hand. Since then, he's endured painful physical therapy every three days, and doctors say he may never regain full range of motion.

Doctors at University Hospital's burn unit say injuries like these can happen fast.

"It's an almost instantaneous injury that's very deep because of the very fast motion of the tread on the treadmill," said Dr. Stephen Morris.

He says part of the problem is that many kids treat treadmills as toys.

"I think that children are fascinated by the sound and the motion," Morris said.

Though these injuries aren't widespread, they're serious. They happen most often at this time of year, and they're totally preventable.

Now that Palepoi realizes the potential danger, she's urging other runners to be more careful.

"I just felt like the worst mother. But in talking to the people up here, they let me know how common it is," she said.

To Stay Safe, doctors suggest keeping your treadmill in a locked room, or at least keep the treadmill key away from kids, and talk to them about the dangers of a treadmill.

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com

Nadine Wimmer

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