The television industry we have today was born in the years just preceding World War II. The Radio Company of America introduced its new line of television (TV) receivers at the 1939 World’s Fair by broadcasting for the first time a televised presidential speech. By 1960, 85 percent of U.S. households had a television set, and in 1964, the predecessor of today’s current flat-screen technology was developed at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Over the next 20 years, satellite broadcasting, color TV, and transatlantic broadcasts came about. The 1990s brought the digital age of television and by 1994, 99 percent of households had at least one TV.* The last 10 years have seen an explosion in flat-screen TV technology, along with decreasing prices for larger TVs.
A tipping point
As flat screens become larger and are placed on top of furniture as opposed to being mounted on a wall, they have a tendency to tip over and fall. Being so thin, the center of gravity is very narrow and prone to tipping if not properly secured to a surface. According to a recently published study in Pediatrics, Television-Related Injuries to Children in the United States, 1990–2011, children ages two through 11 watched an average of 26 hours of TV per week during the 2010–2011 season, and 215 children died from a falling TV between the years 2000 and 2011.† A child dies every three weeks from an unsecured TV set, and 96 percent of these children are younger than age 10. More than half of these deaths are a result of being crushed by TV sets that on average weigh 50 pounds (the equivalent of three bowling balls).‡
To examine the occurrence of pediatric injuries from falling televisions in the National Trauma Data Bank® (NTDB®) research dataset for 2012, admissions medical records were searched using the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM). Specifically searched was external cause of injury code (E-code) E916.0, struck by falling object and age younger than 11. Overall, 1,009 records were uncovered: 784 contained a discharge status, including 738 patients discharged to home, 25 to acute care/rehab, and nine sent to skilled nursing facilities; 12 died. These patients were 60 percent male, on average 4.4 years of age, had an average hospital length of stay of 2.7 days, an intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay of 3.7 days, an average injury severity score of 8.8, and were on the ventilator for an average of 4.8 days. Fortunately, half of these patients went to a general surgical floor; however, 21 percent went directly to the ICU, and 13 percent went directly to the operating room from the emergency department (see figure).
Bigger is better, especially when it comes to watching one’s favorite movie, soap opera, or sports team on a TV. People spend countless hours in front of their TV sets relaxing and getting informed with the evening news. Young children partake in educational broadcasts that stimulate learning in unique ways. However, it is important to remember to properly secure TVs. Many newer sets come with anti-tip attachments that are designed to be screwed directly into the furniture to minimize the risk of tipping over. Simple steps such as public education, provision of anchoring devices at the point of sale, strengthening standards for TV stability, and improved TV set design can go a long way to prevent these types of injuries. After all, it is what’s on TV that we are interested in—not who or what the TV could potentially land on.
Throughout the year, we will be highlighting data through brief reports in the Bulletin. The NTDB Annual Report 2012 is available on the ACS website as a PDF file and as a PowerPoint presentation at www.ntdb.org. In addition, information regarding how to obtain NTDB data for more detailed study is available on the website. If you are interested in submitting your trauma center’s data, contact Melanie L. Neal, Manager, NTDB, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statistical support for this article has been provided by Chrystal Caden-Price, data analyst, NTDB.
*Federal Communication Commission. Historical periods in television technology. Available at: http://transition.fcc.gov/omd/history/tv/. Accessed August 24, 2013.
†De Roo AC, Chounthirath T, Smith GA. Television-Related Injuries to Children in the United States, 1990–2011. Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/07/17/peds.2013-1086. Accessed August 24, 2013.
‡TV Safety. Available at: www.tvsafety.org. Accessed September 19, 2013.