In 2014 there were 24, 400 treadmill accidents reported. The official number for 2016 is still undetermined, but I will be one of those numbers. I rang in the New Year with a crash, bang, and a giant hematoma when I lost my footing climbing back onto a moving treadmill (Treadmill Safety Commandment Number Four). It had been one of those runs where I just wasn’t really feeling it, after a week of treadmill runs, this one felt particularly monotonous. I had propped open the side door to my garage to get some air moving through and it was getting too cold. So instead of pausing my treadmill, I held onto the handrails, hopped off, closed the side door, and got back on. I used the side rails and held onto the hand rails, but somehow when I got on the already moving belt I just lost my footing and crashed. It was the kind of crash where you do the body pat all over to check for your limbs, and that’s when I saw the hematoma that had formed immediately on my left shin, there was also a pretty good sized belt burn on my left arm, and some smaller belt burns on my stomach and upper right thigh. I quickly got ice on the hematoma and texted a picture of the injury to my older sister, who is a college literary professor not a medical professional, yet somehow big sisters always know what to do. I asked her if she thought I should go to the ER, her mono-syllabic response, written in all caps, with five exclamation marks said “YES!!!!!” Thankfully at the ER, the X-rays showed that the bone was completely intact and they sent me home to rest, ice, compress, and elevate.
Treadmills are the most popular piece of exercise equipment. More than 50 million Americans use them, and according to federal statistics, they’re also the single most dangerous piece of exercise equipment. Here are some important safety procedures to remember for staying safe.
It’s very common for runners to want to watch their feet, especially if they are new to using a treadmill. Runners who look down or to the side while they are on a treadmill are likely to lose their balance and fall.
Start by Straddling the Deck
When beginning a workout, it’s important for runners to straddle the deck and not start the machine with their feet on the belt. Most machines start at a slow pace regardless of what setting they were set on when they were turned off, but even if you are planning to do speed work, start slowly and increase your speed gradually.
Use the safety catch
It’s the string that attaches you to the treadmill so that if you fall, the string will bring the machine to an immediate stop. Additionally, know where the kill switch is, so you can press it if you start to slip or so that the treadmill can be stopped quickly if you become injured or a piece of clothing gets caught between the moving parts.
Don’t EVER Step on or Off a Moving Treadmill
Ever, ever! I learned this one the hard way. While it’s tempting to leave the treadmill running for a few minutes, say while you are shutting a door, a moving treadmill is a danger to anyone in the area and should be shut off completely before you step on or off the machine.
Leave Plenty of Space
Falls can happen to even the most experienced treadmill users. It’s important to make sure there is nothing behind the treadmill that you could hit your head on if you fell off the back of the machine. Treadmill belts move quickly and there is a lot of force behind them, a fall off of a moving treadmill is the equivalent of falling off a bike at 10 miles an hour without a helmet or knee-pads on to protect you.
While treadmills are generally safe, it’s important to remember they deserve 100 percent of your attention, focus, and concentration when they’re being used. My Dad is a former helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard, and they had a saying among the flight crew that “complacency kills.” After doing this research and reading about horrible accidents and even, on rare occasions death, I realized that I was complacent that day and that complacency resulted in a painful and expensive injury. This is a lesson I’ll only have to learn once, let my story be your cautionary tale of treadmill safety and remember these tips to avoid injuries and accidents. Understanding the risks, being safety conscious, and staying alert around the treadmill is an important part of running our lives.
Have you ever experienced a treadmill crash?