Study finds zip line-related injuries on the rise nationwide, raising concerns about safety.
NATIONAL—According to a recent study of U.S. emergency room data, the number of zip line-related injuries has soared along with the popularity of the largely unregulated activity.
The study found that from 1997-2012, nearly 17,000 zip line-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency rooms. Researchers reported that this was the first study of its kind to take a national look at injuries from zip line accidents. By analyzing a national injury database operated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the researchers discovered that most injuries occurred at commercial zip line courses, camps, and other non-residential places. Surprisingly, only about 30 percent of injuries were from do-it-yourself zip line kits, typically found in backyards or farms.
The annual injury rate for all zip lines climbed from almost 8 per 1 million U.S. residents in 2009 to nearly 12 per 1 million in 2012. Most of the injuries happened when people, predominantly children and teens, fell off or slammed into objects at the end of the course. What shocked researchers even more was just how serious these injuries were. In fact, almost 50 percent of all injuries were fractures or broken bones. Also, almost 12 percent of injuries resulted in hospital stays, a worrisome rate much higher than more conventional sports, said researchers. Additionally, while the study did not look at the number of deaths resulting from zip line activities, the Associated Press reports that at least six people have died nationwide this year, most from falls. The rise in injuries has led researchers to suggest that more uniform regulation and effective oversight of the activity is needed.
Currently, there are no uniform safety standards for the zip line industry, although industry groups have adopted voluntary safety standards typically involving equipment, maintenance and worker training, but they vary and are not uniformly followed. Insurance providers generally require operators to adhere to some of these standards, and several states have adopted safety regulations.
However, this rise in accidents has captured the attention of lawmakers in unregulated states where the zip line industry had historically been self-regulated. They are now taking a closer look at the safety regulations for this recreational activity to see what changes they can make to help limit accidents and prevent future tragedies.
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