Is There A Lesson About Treadmills In Sandberg Spouse Death? Yes: Keep Exercising



In this 2013 file photo, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and her husband David Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, walk to a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

In this 2013 file photo, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and her husband David Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, walk to a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

The subject line of an email I got last night didn’t mince words: “Exercise can kill you.”

Not exactly the conclusion I’d draw from the tragic death of Sheryl Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, who is reported to have died of head trauma and blood loss after falling off a treadmill while on vacation in Mexico.

Not surprisingly, the flukish, apparently accidental death of a high-profile spouse led to predictable follow-up stories on the dangers of exercising on treadmills.

From Quartz, under the headline, “After Dave Goldberg’s tragic death, it’s worth a reminder: Treadmills are dangerous:”

Treadmills are notorious for causing accidents—occasionally fatal ones. The machines’ powerful motors and fast-moving belts can punish any momentary loss of balance with bruises, sprains, broken bones, friction burns, or worse. Distractions like watching TV or reading while running increase the likelihood of an injury.

The Washington Post reports on the “risks of treadmills in the era of smart phones:”

But his freakish accident actually isn’t that rare. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans are injured on treadmills. Thousands are taken to the emergency room. A handful die.

Data suggests that the problem is getting worse. As high-tech, high-powered treadmills proliferate, so, too, do the digital distractions that make the machines even more dangerous…

“Almost 460,000 people were sent to the hospital in 2012 for injuries related to exercise equipment,” according to USA Today. “The vast majority—nearly 428,000 were treated and released for their injuries—but about 32,000 were hospitalized or were dead on arrival.”

Treadmills account for the majority of such exercise equipment injuries, Graves told The Washington Post in a phone interview. In a study of 1,782 injury reports from 2007-2011, she found that “treadmill machines comprise 66% of injuries, but constitute approximately only 1/4 the market share of such equipment.

But wait, a reality check, please. Stuff happens. Unpredictable, tragic, life-altering stuff. And we, the survivors, need to keep steady and continue to care for ourselves and for those we love. And that includes exercise.

I asked Dr. Eddie Phillips, director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine and an assistant professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, for his take, and he offered this perspective:

Despite the tragic and paradoxical death of a high profile individual exercising on a treadmill to improve his health we must not lose site of the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of increased physical activity for everyone. Treadmill accidents are rare compared to the pandemic of preventable disease and death from physical inactivity in the majority of the population. Avoiding exercise and remaining sedentary ensures universal increased risks of diseases like diabetes and heart disease as well as premature death and increased health care costs. Continue reading

Blame It On Binky: Sippy Cups, Pacifiers And A Trip To The Emergency Room

At a recent baby shower, a pregnant colleague received a pacifier with an attached fuzzy lamb — easier to find and keep in the infants’ mouth. We all oohed and ahhed. But perhaps this darling little sucking device should have come with a black box warning: a new study found that every four hours a child is treated in the emergency department for injuries related to her pacifier, sippy cup or baby bottle.

In what’s being called the first study of its kind, researchers estimate that on average 2,270 injuries per year in the U.S. are related to mishaps involving these ostensibly soothing devices. Most of the accidents examined here involved falls with the product in the child’s mouth.

A new source of parental anxiety: pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups (Nationwide Children's Hospital)

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, and conducted by researchers at the Center for Biobehavioral Health and the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital also found (according to the news release):

…that from 1991 to 2010, an estimated 45,398 children younger than three years of age were treated in U.S. emergency departments for injuries related to the use of these products. This equates to an average of 2,270 injuries per year, or one child treated in a hospital emergency department every four hours for these injuries.

The study [released online May 14 and published in the June print issue of Pediatrics] found that baby bottles accounted for 66 percent of injuries, followed by pacifiers at 20 percent and sippy cups at 14 percent. Body regions most commonly injured were the mouth (71 percent) and the head, face or neck (20 percent). Continue reading

Tax Day Hazardous To Health, Study Finds

A new study suggests April 15 may not be the best day to drive . (jenineabarbanel/flickr)

Paying taxes never feels healthy for the psyche.

But Karen Weintraub, writing the Daily Dose blog today reports that tax day can be very bad for your physical health — and life — particularly when driving.

Looking at 30-years of car accident data, a University of Toronto professor has found that April 15 (or whatever weekday taxes were due that year) is substantially more dangerous than the same weekday a week earlier or later.

Roughly 13 more people die in road crashes on tax day than other days, according to the research published in the April 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Deadline stress was probably a key factor in these extra deaths, said Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier, who led the study and whose research was the first to reveal the dangers of driving while talking on a cell phone.

“Our main finding is that stressful deadlines can contribute to driving errors that can contribute to fatal crashes,” he said. “We use tax day to learn something about stress that may be relevant 365 days a year.”

Passengers and pedestrians are also more likely to die on tax day, Redelmeier said, though it’s not clear whether – for pedestrians – that’s because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or – for passengers – because the car they were in was driven or struck by someone distracted by stress. Continue reading

From Spring Break To Quadriplegia, And Building A New Life

Larry Brennan and Emmie (Courtesy)

Larry Brennan and his dog Emmie (Photo: Mark Hunt)

By Dr. Annie Brewster

On March 19, 1991, Larry Brennan broke his neck.

He was 18 years old and suddenly paralyzed. He’s had to use a wheelchair ever since.

At the time of the accident, Larry was a freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; he was in the Bahamas with friends on spring break. The details of the accident are fuzzy, he says, because he was intoxicated at the time, having been on a “booze cruise” all day. He remembers running down the beach, then nothing else. According to his friends, Larry dove into the water. The impact broke his cervical spine.

Initially, when his friends saw him lying face down in the water, they assumed he was snorkeling, and it was several minutes before they realized he was in trouble. He wasn’t breathing when they pulled him out. One of his friends knew CPR, and working with the others, tried to resuscitate him until the ambulance came. Larry coughed up sea water and started to breathe again, but his heart stopped and restarted numerous times before help arrived.

Larry was raised in Wakefield, Massachusetts. In high school, he was a popular, 6-foot-4-inch athlete. He played football and tennis, became an accomplished skier and had many friends. As a freshman at UMass, he was flourishing, and his spring break trip was a highlight.

The accident damaged his spinal cord at the C 5-6 level, basically his lower neck, leaving him a quadriplegic (meaning he has weakness in all four limbs). He can move his shoulders and his upper arms, but not his fingers, and he’s completely paralyzed from the upper chest down, with total weakness in his core trunk muscles and legs. However, Larry’s injury is considered “incomplete” in that his sensory nerve fibers were spared and his sensation is intact. For this, he feels lucky.

Continue reading

Traffic, Labor Day And A Death Far Away

Last year there were more than 1.2 million traffic deaths worldwide, according to the WHO

As folks make the mad Labor Day dash to their cars to get — now! — to the Cape, the Vineyard, the in-laws in Connecticut, it’s worth noting two things:

1. Slow down, be safe and embrace an attitude of we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there (the grill will still be hot when you arrive).

2. Things are far worse elsewhere. For example, here’s a public health professor living in Bangladesh, Tracey Koehlmoos, who’s been blogging for BMJ about the massive number of road traffic deaths where she lives and in poor countries around the world. After writing about the terrible things that happen to others on the treacherous, pothole-laden roads around her, something terrible happened to Koehlmoos: her husband, a U.S. Army colonel, died in a traffic accident last month.

On 27 August 2011, my husband, Colonel Randall L. Koehlmoos, US Army, died in a road traffic accident in Jakarta, Indonesia. The irony of a soldier who has served in every major war and peace action for the past three decades meeting his demise on the streets of Jakarta is not wasted on me, even now in the depths of my grief. It highlights that we are all at risk and that this issue must be addressed before more lives are lost and more families suffer. Continue reading

As You Head For The Hill: Sledding Advice From Children’s

I don’t even want to think about the kinds of sledding injuries that the trauma doctors at Children’s Hospital Boston see. I don’t want to picture them. Let’s just assume that they know what they’re talking about when they beg parents to take some basic precautions as they head to the hill with their children on crusty, white evenings like this one.

This new video featuring Dr. David Mooney, director of the trauma program at Children’s, breaks their wisdom down neatly into six S’s:
Slope — watch out for obstacles
Snow — Not too icy
Sled — should be steerable
Sun — is best, poor visibility increases risk
Sit — the safest position
Snowsuit — hypothermia begins with bad judgment

Helmets of the type used for skiing are recommended, but not as important as these other six, Dr. Mooney said. My own family is just back from the hill with tales of some big kids who showed up with heavy snowboards and almost plowed into several little kids. Maybe we need a seventh S: Sanity.