Falling televisions send thousands of children to hospital emergency rooms every year, a new analysis shows.
In the worst possible cases - as happened in San Antonio last week - a child dies.
Based on data collected from U.S. hospital emergency departments, the report in the August issue of Pediatrics, published online Monday, shows that falling TVs accounted for 12,300 injuries among children under age 18 in 2011, up 126% from 5,455 injuries in 1990.
"A child is killed by a falling TV once every three weeks in this country," says Gary Smith, senior author of the study and president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance. "These new findings show there's a lack of recognition of the potential dangers that TV tip-overs pose to young children."
Police in San Antonio reported Wednesday that Elias Rodriguez, 3, died after a television accidentally fell on him as he climbed on a piece of furniture.
The data analyzed in the new study does not indicate whether the television that caused the injury was a lighter, flat-screen panel or the older, heavier, cathode ray tube model, says Smith, a professor of pediatrics, emergency medicine and epidemiology at The Ohio State University.
"The type of furniture involved is implicated more," he says. "We suspect that as parents purchase a new TV, and now that tends to be a flat screen, the older TV gets moved to another part of the home, often placed in an unsafe position, such as on a dresser or bureau, which was never designed to support a TV."
And children can pull dresser drawers open to use as stairs to help them reach the TV, potentially pulling both the dresser and TV over on top of them, Smith says.
"That's why we're telling parents that it's very important if they purchase a TV that it must be anchored to the wall, whether it's a flat screen or a CRT, and the furniture should be designed to support it, and it should be anchored to the wall as well."
In December, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that TV tip-overs were involved in 215 deaths between 2000 and 2011, including 206 children under age 18. It said that 29 people, mostly kids, were killed by falling TVs in 2011 alone.
According to the new findings, small TVs aren't necessarily less likely to cause injuries. In 69% of the cases where TV size was documented, the screen was less than 26 inches.
During the 22-year span of the study, kids under age 5 represented 64% of all injured patients; boys accounted for 61%. The most common injuries were lacerations (37%) and soft tissue injuries (35%). The injuries most often affected the head and neck region (63%).
Most of the overturned TVs fell off a dresser or armoire (46%), an entertainment center or TV stand (31%) or a table or nightstand (8.8%). There was insufficient data to estimate the percentage that fell from wall-mounted brackets, Smith says.
Prevention strategies, including public education, programs to distribute TV anchoring devices, and better standards for TV stability, are needed, the study says.