MONDAY, July 22, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Falling television sets continue to be a source of serious injuries to young children, a new study shows.
More than 17,000 children are injured each year by TVs, an average of one of these accidents every half hour in the United States.
And injury rates are going up. Over the last 22 years, as the number of households with multiple TVs has doubled, so too have injuries caused by TVs that topple off their stands and crush a child underneath.
"This is an example of an injury that is so preventable that it really is a tragedy that they continue," said study author Dr. Gary Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, a national nonprofit organization. "This paper is a call to action. It tells us that we're not doing enough to prevent these injuries in our homes," he said.
For the study, published online July 22 and in the August print issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers combed through data on TV-related accidents collected by a group of about 100 hospital emergency rooms around the United States. They included all injuries to children younger than age 18 between 1990 and 2012.
While injuries caused by kids colliding with a TV dropped sharply, the number of cases where a child was hurt by a falling set went up 125 percent.
The age group most often hurt by TVs was children under 5 years, and boys accounted for almost two-thirds of those injured.
Nearly two-thirds of the injuries involved the head and neck. Cuts and soft-tissue damage were the most common diagnoses, accounting for nearly three-quarters of injuries treated by doctors. But concussions and other kinds of bumps to the head were also prevalent, making up 13 percent of injuries to children under age 5 and 7 percent of injuries to older children.
Researchers think the increase in TV tip-overs can be explained, in part, by opportunity. More families now have more than one set around the house.
"It's not just the fact that there are more TVs in the home. We think there's something else going on," Smith said.
As boxy older models make way for newer flat-screens, the older TVs are being placed atop dressers, bookshelves and armoires. "These are types of furniture that are simply not designed to safely support a TV," he said.
In cases where doctors noted the piece of furniture associated with the fall, researchers found there was a nearly fourfold increase over the years in the number of times a dresser, chest-of-drawers or armoire was involved.
What's more, older TVs are often moved to bedrooms and basements -- places where parents may not always be watching. About 45 percent of child deaths from TV and furniture tip-overs happen in bedrooms, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
"With kids, where there's a will, there's a way," said Kim Dulic, a spokesperson for the CPSC.
Dulic said toddlers often open the drawers of a dresser and use them as stairs to climb to the TV.
For that reason, she said, "we encourage parents not to leave remotes or juice boxes or other items a child might desire on top of a dresser or a TV."
It's also important to secure both the television and its stand to the wall if young children are in the house.
"We encourage consumers to make a system of safety and anchor both devices," Dulic said.
SafeKids has a home-safety check list.