Friday, May 11, 2007

Safe as Heelys

Heelys, Inc. designs, markets and distributes action sports-inspired products under the HEELYS brand worldwide. Their primary product line is patented dual sneaker that incorporates a removable wheel into the heel. The shoe allows the user to convert from walking or running to skating by shifting their weight to the heel. The heel wheel can be removed and the footwear convert back to walking shoes. The market demographic is children aged 6 to 14 and the Company has sold over 10 million pairs of Heelys since their introduction in 2000. Despite their attraction some serious concerns have been leveled at the safety of heel wheels so the company recently commissioned a retrospective study using Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data. Conducted by the product safety consultancy, Heiden Associates in 2006, their study analyzed over 2.056 million CPSC incident reports through CPSC's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) on product-related injuries from January 2001 through September 2006. The findings demonstrated when Heelys were used in accordance with safety instructions provided on the company packaging and at the Heelys Web site, wheeled sports provided safe opportunities for children to exercise. The study confirmed using Heelys wheeled footwear was significantly safer than bicycling, skateboarding, basketball, soccer and even tennis. These findings mirror an earlier study. Bike riders had the highest injury rate in the wheeled sports category, while wheeled shoes had the best safety record of all wheeled sports, with an injury rate of only two percent of that for bike riding. When used following the safety instructions wheeled footwear was safer than nearly all other popular sports with the exception of table tennis, billiards and bowling. Some medical experts now believe the calf stretching involved in wheeling on the heel may help prevent Sever’s Disease, (apophysitis of the heel) a common heel disorder in children associated with climbing, contact sports and gymnastics).

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