Treadmills Maim and Kill . . . But They Are Worth It. Central NY Lawyer Explains.

Last week, Sheryl Sandburg’s (Facebook’s second-in-command) suffered a big loss. Her husband, David Goldberg, died after cracking open his head in a fall off a treadmill. Dave Goldberg was a Silicon Valley giant in his own right, too (digital-music entrepreneur, Yahoo executive). You can read about him here.

But I am not blogging about Mr. Goldberg or his famous wife. Instead, I am blogging about the cause of his death: A treadmill.

Treadmills are the most popular piece of exercise equipment today. Go to any Y or health club and you will see row upon row of them. More than 50 million Americans use them. I am one of them.

But I know I run risks. According to federal statistics, treadmills are not only the most popular piece of workout equipment; they are also the most dangerous. The machine presents two main dangers: (1) risk of falling and (2) risk of getting a body part (usually a finger) caught in the “pinch point” where the belt meets the metal frame.

Treadmills injure about 500,000 people a year. Injuries include broken bones, amputated fingers, and concussions. Boxer Mike Tyson’s four-year-old daughter was strangled to death by a home treadmill’s chord.

One common type of accident happens when, for whatever reason, your feet stop moving forward fast enough. As you slow down or stop, the moving belt starts to carry your feet toward the back end drop off, like a canoe heading for a waterfall. If your feet get pulled off the end, you can get slammed against the floor or a wall.

You can fall and get hurt on a treadmill in a zillion ways. Just do a search in youtube for “treadmill accidents” and you’ll see some funny treadmill accidents, but also some gruesome ones.

The solution to the treadmill risks is not necessarily to give up the treadmill. After all, getting the exercise probably increases your life expectancy. The solution is to use the treadmill with focus and responsibility. The main culprit is distraction. To be safe, you need to really concentrate on what you are doing.

Even if you are very careful, though, sometimes it’s the treadmill’s fault. The major defects in treadmills that cause injuries are: (1) defects in the design of the treadmill (example: a line of treadmills designed without a “kill” switch that shuts off the machine when the user falls), and (2) Manufacturing defects (a problem not with the design, but with a particular treadmill as it came out of the assembly process).

Sometimes health club owners cause treadmill accidents by failing to properly maintain treadmills or warn customers of problems the treadmills have exhibited. For example, a few years ago a jury compensated a man to the tune of $9 million for permanent disabling spinal injuries suffered when the treadmill he was running on suddenly stopped, throwing him forward head first into the display panel. The jury pinned 90% of the fault on the health club operator (who apparently was aware of the problem but failed to take the treadmill out of service or warn the customer) and 10% on the manufacturer.

Treat your treadmill with respect. Realize that, like a car, it is a dangerous piece of machinery. Then focus on what you are doing. Don’t get distracted. If you are using a treadmill at a gym, make sure it is a reputable place with a good equipment maintenance program. Now have fun on your run.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani
Email me at: I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq. Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels Bersani Kalabanka


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