San Diego

San Diego Hospitals See Rise in ‘Scooter Trauma'

Medical professionals cite electric scooter injuries as a consistent source of operations

You've seen them on the streets, sidewalks, and in your neighborhood. Now, the electric scooters, which first hit San Diego in February 2018, are making their mark in local operating rooms.

"Scooter Trauma" is no longer an emergency room anomaly. Some medical professionals say electric scooter injuries have risen to become one of their top reasons for surgery.

Dr. Robert Tonks, an orthopedic surgeon, has operated on at least 48 patients who hurt themselves on electric scooters.

The most common injuries he treats are ankle fractures, wrist fractures, and tibial plateau fractures.

Tonks believes alcohol is a top contributor to some of these injuries.

But he also says a large number of his patients fit into a middle-aged category of tourists who don't have prior experience on the scooters.

"These people couldn't ride a skateboard when they were 15 and now they're 45. They think they can ride a skateboard, so they get on these motorized things and they're going 15 miles per hour," said Tonks.

The injuries are also piling up for medical specialists who deal with head and face trauma.

Lon Sheriff, a medical device representative, who spends time in operating rooms with surgeons who use his products to repair everything from broken jaws to cracked skulls, has been part of 28 scooter-related surgeries just this year.

Sheriff says "scooter trauma" is a category of injury now nearly as common as physical assaults and car accidents.

"You almost assume it was due to a scooter accident because they are that prevalent," said Sheriff, referring to surgeries involving the mandible -- or jaw bone.

A recently released San Diego County Grand Jury report blamed San Diego city leaders for not doing enough to regulate the electric scooter companies and create rules to protect the public.

The report dates back to 2018, and as a result, many of the suggestions have already been implemented by the city.

But medical professionals say they haven't seen a dip in injuries, if anything, they continue to see more of them.

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