The untimely death of a top Silicon Valley executive has cast a spotlight on the dangers posed by America’s most popular item of exercise equipment: the treadmill.
Dave Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey and husband of Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, died suddenly last Friday evening in a gym at a hotel in Punta Mita, Mexico, where he was on holiday with friends and family.
He is thought to have taken a bad tumble from a treadmill, hitting his head before being found collapsed by his brother at around 4pm. Goldberg, who was 47, later died at a nearby hospital. A spokesman for the local prosecutor’s office told reporters he had suffered severe brain trauma, caused by a massive loss of blood.
According to data from the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), almost 460,000 Americans were sent to hospital for injuries sustained during run-ins with exercise equipment in 2012. More than 30,000 of those were hospitalised or killed in the accidents.
Dr Janessa Graves, who teaches at Washington State University’s College of Nursing in Spokane, told the Washington Post that after leading a recent study of exercise machine injuries, she found that treadmill machines had caused approximately two-thirds of those injuries.
A 2011 report by CBS News cited CPSC statistics suggesting that treadmill injuries had led to around 19,000 accident and emergency visits in the US in 2009, with around 6,000 of those patients being children.
More than 50 million Americans reportedly use treadmills, which make up around a quarter of the market share in such equipment. They are by far the biggest-selling item of exercise equipment in an industry that grew to $84.3bn (£55.5bn) last year. But while they may provide a reliable way to remain in shape without venturing outdoors, the machines also contain several moving parts that can easily become hazardous during a momentary loss of concentration or balance: spinning motors, sandpaper-like belts and dangling cords can lead to falls, burns, bruises, broken bones and even cardiac problems for those who over-exercise.
In 2009, Mike Tyson’s four-year-old daughter Exodus Tyson died in a treadmill accident at the former boxer’s family home in Phoenix, Arizona, after a cord became wrapped around her neck as she played nearby.
Experts recommend that treadmill users take safety precautions while jogging on the spot, using the safety clip that automatically switches off the machine in the event of a fall, and clearing the area around the treadmill to avoid tipping into a sharp object.
Yet some newer, more high-tech treadmills carry yet another built-in danger: distraction. Many models now include a television screen to watch while running, or simply a stand allowing users to read a magazine or book as they exercise. Many people also make use of their smartphones as they exercise, and it may be no coincidence that exercise equipment injuries increased by 45 per cent in the three years following the introduction of the iPhone.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies