“My nose and face were cut to pieces and my arms were throbbing from burns.”
As was her regular routine, 57-year-old sales exec Yvonne Myers stepped on the treadmill at her local gym for a run. She did not expect, however, for the machine to throw her to the ground the moment she stepped on.
The treadmill’s previous user had not turned the machine off, and the belt was spinning at such a fast clip that it looked motionless. When Myers hit the surface, she tried to get up, but was tossed from the exercise machine instead.
“My nose and face were cut to pieces and my arms were throbbing from burns,” the South Manchester, UK mother-of-four told The Daily Mail. “I also had a gash on my forehead. I looked as though I’d been in a fight."Even regular gym-goers like Myers, who was an avid treadmill user, are not immune to the dangers of this piece of exercise equipment.
This also isn’t the first time treadmill accidents have made news in recent months.
SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, died this year in a tragic treadmill accident. On May 1, he fell off a machine while on vacation in Mexico, potentially due to heart complications, and sustained a head injury, according to a report in The New York Times.
We don’t often think of danger when we head to the gym, but stepping on a treadmill always poses risks. In 2014, around 24,400 injuries occurred as the direct result of treadmill use — almost 40 percent of the 62,600 injuries from exercise equipment, making these machines the most dangerous you’ll find in your gym.
Deaths from treadmill use, on the other hand, are much rarer, according to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data. Only 30 fatalities from treadmills were reported between 2003 and 2012, for an average of just three per yearHere are some checks to make before you start exercising, or while you’re in the middle of a workout, from Michael Jonesco, MD, a sports medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center:
Enter with a clean bill of health.Your top priority before you hit the gym is to make sure you know your health status. “A lot of times we’ll see, if you’re running, why did he collapse?”Jonesco tells Yahoo Health. “The most common cause of falling is a vascular event, like a heart attack. I don’t know this case, but before you start a workout, always make sure you have a clean bill of health. Continue to be screened for coronary issues, even if you feel healthy – especially if you have risk factors like age, being male, or a high-stress job.”
Beware of strange symptoms.If you’re on the treadmill and you feel any chest pain, any shortness of breath beyond what you’re used to in a given workout, or any lightheadedness, you need to step off. “Lightheadedness is one most people don’t think of,”says Jonesco. “But it can show you’re not getting enough blood supply to the brain, and be a preceding factor for passing out.”
Don’t add distractions (until you’re comfortable).Besides coronary issues, other reasons for treadmill falls can usually be pinned to distraction. “Usually you have a comfort zone if you’re on a machine you’re used to, but if you’re on vacation or using an unfamiliar machine, you want to take time to get used to it,”Jonesco says. Start your workout at a slower pace, be aware of the width of the band, and ditch the headphones or TV until you find your rhythm.
Use the safety tabs. You know the attachments on the treadmill, that are meant to immediately stop the machine if you step out of line? They might be annoying, but use ‘em, says Jonesco. “A lot of people overlook the safety tabs because they’re clunky, but they’re there for a reason.”Those attachments could prevent a fall, and are especially important if your treadmill is close to the wall in an unfamiliar area. “I like to move the machine away from the wall if at all possible,”Jonesco says. “If you fall and it doesn’t turn off, you can get pushed up against the wall, the band will keep moving and can give you some pretty bad abrasions.”
Keep help nearby. According to the report, Goldberg wasn’t found by his brother until 7 p.m., although he left for the gym at 4 p.m. Although the gym seems pretty safe, still tell someone you’re going — or preferably, take them along. “Have a workout buddy, or at least familiarize yourself with the people around you at the gym or the staff if something were to happen,”says Jonesco. “Keep your cell phone nearby you in case of an emergency.”
Nevertheless, exercise is essential. Just, like anything, don’t take safety as a given. Always be smart about using equipment, says Jonesco. “It’s very sad, and could have been a freak thing,”he explains. “The benefits of exercise far, far exceed the risks.”