Exclusive: Liverpool surgeon’s groundbreaking research highlights rise in e-scooter injuries

Research team took data from before Liverpool’s e-scooter pilot scheme and compared it with data recorded during the trial.

<p>E-scooter trials have been extended across 32 regions in England. Photo: Shutterstock</p>

E-scooter trials have been extended across 32 regions in England. Photo: Shutterstock

A Liverpool surgeon and his team have undertaken groundbreaking research into e-scooter injuries after witnessing a life-threatening broken thigh bone following a crash on one of the vehicles.

David Bodansky, an orthopaedic surgeon at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, told LiverpoolWorld their research showed that e-scooters were associated with a ‘marked increase in musculoskeletal trauma’ in the city.

He also revealed that the patients they reviewed were not in crashes with other vehicles, but had lost control of their scooters.

Liverpool’s e-scooter pilot scheme

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced the introduction of e-scooter trials in June last year.

The DfT said they are now across 32 regions in England and the trials have been extended to March 2022. Riding a privately owned e-scooter on a public road is still illegal.

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The Liverpool pilot started in October last year as a joint initiative of Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Liverpool City Council.

Swedish-based e-scooter company Voi have provided the scooters in the city, which the public can hire using a mobile app.

The background

Mr Bodansky works as part of the Major Trauma Centre Collaborative (MTCC), a partnership between Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust.

The regional major trauma centre for Cheshire and Merseyside is based at Aintree University Hospital and provides a range of services and clinical expertise for patients who are severely injured from all areas of the region.

He said: “I was the surgeon on call at Aintree and someone arrived with a broken thigh bone after a crash on an e-scooter, it was an awful injury and I asked the other clinicians if anyone else had seen similar injuries from e-scooters, they said yes, so I decided to do some research.”

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David Bodansky: Orthopaedic surgeon at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The major trauma centre sees patients who have suffered e-scooter injuries from right across the region including those riding the Voi e-scooters and others using privately owned scooters.

Mr Bodansky said he had treated patients with e-scooter injuries ranging in age from 16-year-olds right up to riders in their 70s.

The research

Mr Bodansky assembled a team of eight orthopedic surgeons and four physiotherapists to assist with the research.

The consultant and the team assessed data from March 2019 to October 2020, in the seven months before the e-scooter trial started in Liverpool, and compared it with data once the trial was underway from October 2020 to May 2021.

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Hospital records systems were reviewed for details about the injuries and treatment and consenting patients were contacted by telephone at follow-up reviews to gather further data.

Mr Bodansky revealed the research, which has been submitted for publication, showed that 51 patients between October 2020 to May 2021 had musculoskeletal injuries involving e-scooters. The average age of the patients was 26 years old.

Out of the 51 patients, 39 disclosed the type of scooter they were riding, the team discovered 26 injuries were from patients who were on Voi scooters and 13 were privately owned.

A total of 35 of the patients required face-to-face fracture clinic appointments, nine patients needed surgical procedures.

To date, 18 of the patients have required time off work, totalling in 75 weeks of absence.

Two of the patients activated major trauma protocol, which is when an ambulance crew suggests severe injuries and a full team including emergency surgeons are required to meet the ambulance when it arrives at the hospital, Mr Bodansky explained.

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In the seven-month period before the Voi e-scooter trial started, there were just six e-scooter injuries compared with 51 during the seven months the surgical team were monitoring the situation.

Conclusion and reaction

Mr Bodansky said: “E-scooters are a really useful way to travel, they are a relatively new phenomenon in the UK and people are curious and excited about them.

“But what people need to remember is that if they are not paying attention when they are riding and lose control, they risk life-changing injuries.”

He said someone who has complex surgery following an e-scooter crash could be in hospital for a week and might be off work for around 12 weeks.

The researchers concluded the use of e-scooters had been associated with a ‘marked increase in musculoskeletal trauma’ and there needs to be close regulation of e-scooters to ‘minimise the economic impact of managing patients’ with e-scooter injuries.

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In a joint statement, Liverpool City Council and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority said: “The e-scooter pilot scheme in Liverpool has been popular and successful to date. Safety is of vital importance in this trial and we’re working closely with Voi, Merseyside Police as well as with hospitals and public health leaders to track any issues.

“A number of additional measures have already been rolled out to help ensure the e-scooters are being used safely and properly.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “Safety will always be our top priority and the trials currently taking place in 32 regions across England are allowing us to better understand the benefits of e-scooters and their impact on public space.

“E-scooters could help ease the burden on our transport network while creating a green legacy. By encouraging a shift away from private cars, e-scooters can improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the UK as we build back greener.”

A Voi spokesperson said: Voi e-scooters have proven to be incredibly popular with the people of Liverpool as a safe, convenient, and environmentally friendly way to get around - to date, over 1.2 million rides have been taken in the city. So when an accident or injury does occur, however extremely rare to a rider, pedestrian, or other road user, it is deeply regrettable.

“David Bodansky’s research is part of an ongoing project, which Voi has supported, to fully understand and identify the conditions that significantly impact e-scooter safety so that we can deliver our ‘Vision Zero’ commitment to achieving zero fatalities or major injuries by 2030. This is something which sets us apart from our competitors in the UK, as well as those selling private scooters - which remain illegal for use on public roads.

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“We are determined to work together with our riders and partners, including the police, local authorities, and safety and medical experts, to improve infrastructure overall to make micro-mobility safer. At the same time, we will continue to innovate with new safety features and to educate our users.”