Hong Kong hospital alarmed at rise in children injuring feet while riding illegally on bikes

Doctors warn that youngsters could suffer permanent damage after trapping feet between spokes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 October, 2016, 5:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 October, 2016, 3:57pm

Doctors at North District Hospital in Sheung Shui are worried about a rise in the number of children wedging their feet between the back wheel spokes of bikes and motorcycles.

There have already been four such cases there this year, compared with an annual average of 1.8. Injured children could potentially suffer deformed feet for life.

From 1999 to 2012, the hospital reported a total of 24 children under the age of 11 who were injured in such accidents. Although it is illegal to ride a bike with a person on the back, many parents in the New Territories carry their children this way.

Dr Lui Tun-hing, a consultant of the hospital, said such injuries could be devastating. “Imagine a blade cutting into your feet from behind,” he said. “It’s not just any blade but a very blunt one.”

In the worst cases, the spokes can slice through the achilles tendon or heel bone, leaving the victims unable to start walking again for up to five months.

The feet might just appear to be bruised. But on the inside, the bones or the tendons could have already been crushed
Dr Mak Chong-yin

In one case, a patient’s severed tendon and bones had to be patched up with skin and tissues transplanted from other parts of the body.

Lui said children suffering such injuries could be left with one leg longer or crippling arthritis.

Dr Mak Chong-yin, who works at the hospital, said parents sometimes underestimated the injury damage because of the absence of obvious symptoms.

“On the outside, the feet might just appear to be bruised. But on the inside, the bones or the tendons could have already been crushed.” Mak said the initially minor symptoms could lead to the rapid death of skin and tissues.

According to hospital data, parents on average waited almost an entire day before sending their injured children for treatment.

The same data set revealed that children admitted after a bicycle accident spent an average of eight days in hospital and underwent more than one operation. Those injured by a motorcycle spent on average more than 18 days in the hospital and received more than two operations.