Short of the scene in The Jetsons opening and the OK Go music video with the dance routine on treadmills, most images of the machines are gyms filled with rows of joggers or walkers, or rows of the equipment waiting for more action. The tragic death of Silicon Valley executive Dave Goldberg is shocking, but not working out is far worse for someone than taking to a treadmill. Accidents can happen anywhere, but Goldberg’s mishap is not a norm in gyms.
Goldberg, chief executive of SurveyMonkey, along with his wife, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer and the author of the bestseller Lean In Sheryl Sandberg, and family were on vacation in Mexico. The 47-year-old Goldberg was found next to a treadmill in the resort’s gym. One of the best selling pieces of gym equipment, treadmills are standard fixtures in workout rooms large and small and most hotels, like the one Goldberg was in, have them to meet the expectation of guests. The Silicon Valley CEO had apparently slipped, hit his head, and suffered a severe brain trauma and massive loss of blood.
This is not the first high profile treadmill death. Boxer Mike Tyson’s daughter died after becoming tangled in the cable of one. While accidents involving children are more common, deaths for any users or misusers are still rare.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) there have only been approximately 30 deaths attributed to the machines from 2003 through 2012. Accidents, however, are more common. An estimated 24,000 people were admitted to American hospitals last year because of treadmill-related injuries, most commonly involving slips, like the one Goldberg had. The BBC quoted an L.A. Fitness representative saying that the equipment accounted for just 2 percent of the accidents members typically have in their chain of gyms. But some sources report that the treadmill has worse stats, and claim the machines represent 39 percent of injuries related to exercise equipment (as opposed to injuries just plain exercising, like strains and sprains).
Most injuries involving treadmills (besides leg cramps and things tied to running anywhere) occur if someone tries stepping on or off the machine’s moving belt. This is exacerbated when someone is not the right height for the arm supports; being unable to grab on makes on more likely to slip and be ill-equipped to stop from falling.
Home use or unsupervised use, which was presumably the case in Mexico with Goldberg, is a bigger issue, particularly where children are concerned. There have been numerous accidents involving children getting trapped fingers and hands in the machine’s belt.
Using a treadmill or other gym equipment is fair safer and better for someone than not using it. A recent survey found that 28 percent of American adults were “totally sedentary” last year. That is reportedly the highest rate since 2007. While physical activity may lead to accidents, the medical problems that arise without exercise (aerobic, weight-bearing and maintaining flexibility with stretching) are far worse. “The risk of inactivity is about 100 times greater than the risks of activity, ” according to Jordan Metzl, a sports-medicine physician in New York City who also teaches treadmill-running classes. Goldberg’s shocking death is a tragedy for his company and worse for his family, but people should not be deterred from working out on a treadmill or other routine gym equipment.
By Dyanne Weiss