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Your Child

Zip Lining Safety Tips

1:45

From the mountains of Costa Rica to over waterfalls in Hawaii, zip lining has become a vacation acivity destination. Zip lining operations can also be found in  summer camps, zoos, fields in the middle nowhere, people’s backyards and lots of other exotic and not-so- exotic locations.

Here’s how they work. A zip line consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, typically made of stainless steel and mounted on an incline. A rider sits in a harness attached to a pulley. At the top of the slope, the user propels forward and gravity does the rest. Depending on your location, it can be quite a thrilling ride to the base.

One of the keys to a safe zip lining experience is knowing something about the company and the operator of the ride. Before you harness your child into a zip line at camp or during a family vacation, ask the operator questions about the ride’s safety and look around. Not every company follows the same safety rules. Though there are currently no national standards for zip line construction and operation, many states have them, and any legitimate operator should also adhere to the standards set by the Association for Challenge Course Technology or the Professional Ropes Course Association.

Here are some questions you can ask:

·      If the operation is inspected, how often and by whom.

·      What is the company’s safety record?

·      What training the operators have.

·      Is a safety demonstration included?

Check the area out once you arrive. Do the operators look professional? Look at the equipment provided, including carabiners, ropes, harnesses and helmets. Are they well maintained? Look at the course itself. Do the lines look free from wear and tear? How about the platforms? Do they look sturdy? Do they have guardrails?

Once on the course, make sure you're strapped onto a safety line at all times — not just while you're zipping through space. (Some places require that you have two safety lines hooked on.) Many accidents occur by a simple step off a platform. So if you're on the course (which often means many feet off the ground), you should be safely attached to a line that will catch you if you fall. Also, watch out for other adventurers and the guides. Don't get in their way.

Make sure everyone in the family who is zip lining wears a helmet and has closed-toe shoes.

Nearly 17,000 zip line injuries were treated in emergency rooms from 1997-2012, and most of those injuries were in the last four years, according to a 2015 study by Gary A. Smith, M.D., Dr.P.H., FAAP, and colleagues at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. About half the injuries involved children under 10 years old. Another 33% involved children ages 10-19 years. The study noted that many zip lines are not regulated, and there are no uniform safety standards.

The increase in the number of zip line injuries in children is “an epidemic by any definition,” according to Dr. Smith, past chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.

“If kids are using them, you really need to make sure they’re using them in places where people are trained, they know what they’re doing and the zip lines have been constructed in a way that they’re not going to fail,” said Dr. Smith.

Backyard zip line kits sold online and in stores also have been linked to injuries. Earlier this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled a backyard zip line kit (http://1.usa.gov/1XoHrFs) because of a design flaw that made it easy for the cable to separate from the line, causing riders to fall. Riders suffered head injuries and bruises. Another recall was issued in 2014 for backyard zip line trolleys (http://1.usa.gov/1RT6uaY) that released unexpectedly. No injuries were reported. Authors of the 2015 study warned against buying and installing backyard zip lines.

The AAP does not have a policy on zip lines and children. However, Dr. Smith suggested the following safety precautions:

·      Requiring riders to wear a helmet, harness and gloves;

·      Training operators;

·      Inspecting and maintaining equipment regularly; and

·      Posting rules and requiring participants to follow them.

“If done correctly, these and other types of outdoor amusements that are there for the thrill … can be done in a safe enough way that it’s reasonable for children to use them,” Dr. Smith said.

Story sources: Trisha Korioth, http://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/07/07/ZipLines070716

John Donovan, http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/eco-tourism/stories/6-things-do-you-go-zip-lining

Your Child

Zip Line Injuries Soaring

2:00

There’s definitely something thrilling about standing high above the ground, hooking oneself onto a pulley and launching off the edge of safety, then soaring through the air on a steel cable. It’s called zip lining.

A new study finds, as the adventure sport’s popularity has increased, so have associated injuries requiring treatment at an emergency room.

Researchers found the injury rate from zip lines rose by more than 50 percent between 2009 and 2012, with kids 9 and under accounting for 45 percent of the injuries.

"One of the things that really struck us about this study is how serious the injuries were. Almost 50 percent of them were fractures or broken bones, and over 10 percent actually had to be admitted to the hospital," said Tracy Mehan of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who led the study.

"These are much higher and more serious injuries than we see with a lot of studies, and it shows us that this activity is much more like an adventure sport," Mehan told NBC News.

Mehan and her team looked at a national database of emergency room visits. They found that since 1997, close to 17,000 people have been injured badly enough from zip line activities to need care from an emergency room.

There were not enough annual cases until 2009 — when zip lines really began to be popular — to put a good, solid rate on the number of injuries.

"Seventy percent of them were in the last four years, which shows us that this is a growing trend," Mehan said. "In fact, in 2012 alone, there were over 3,600 injuries, which was about 10 a day."

What was once an adventure only found in a remote part of the world has become big business in rural areas and suburbs throughout the country.  If you have the space, you can even buy a kit and assemble a zip line in your own backyard.  What could possibly go wrong?

"In 2001 there were about 10 commercial zip line outfits in the United States," Mehan said. "By 2012 this had grown to over 200. And when you add in all of the publicly accessible zip lines that you see now, it's over 13,000."

Most of the injuries happened when people fell off or crashed into something like a tree or a zip line structure.

"The injuries really happen when you fell off the zip line from a high height, or when you went careening into a tree at a high speed or a support structure and had a collision. Those types of injuries are very serious," she said.

"The most common injury by far that we see are broken bones. That was almost 50 percent of our injuries. Other injuries can be bruises, sprains and strains, or concussions."

Head injuries account for 7 percent of the hospital visits says Mehan, and wearing a helmet doesn’t guarantee your head will be protected. A fall from a short height can damage the head and neck, even with a helmet.

While zip line popularity may be increasing, safety standards are pretty much non- existent says Mehan.

"I think a lot of families assume that if there is a zip line out there, that it is following industry safety standards and it's being kept up and maintained in a way that is safe, but that's not always the case," she said.

"Not a lot of states actually have standards in place. Some do, some don't, and even among those that do, it can even vary among jurisdiction," she added.

"We would like to see one universal set of safety standards adopted by each state."

When 12-year-old, Bonnie Sanders Burney, fell to her death in a zip line accident in North Carolina this year, the state’s General Assembly quickly passed a law requiring research for possible regulations. While some states have codified regulations, others allow operators of zip lines and high ropes courses to self-regulate.

Mehan and her team hope the information from this study will spur a tougher look at creating a national code of safety regulations pertaining to zip lines.

Source: Maggie Fox and Erika Edwards, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/zipline-injuries-soar-study-finds-n438876

 

 

 

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