Researchers call for changes in cart design and tougher safety standards. (Freya Ingrid Morales/Bloomberg)

Study Hall presents recent studies as described by researchers and their institutions. This report is from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Although a voluntary shopping cart safety standard was implemented in the United States in 2004, the number and rate of concussions and closed head injuries to children associated with shopping carts have continued to climb, according to a new study.

The study looked at data involving children younger than 15 years of age who were treated for shopping cart-related injuries in emergency departments from 1990 through 2011.

An estimated 530,494 injured children were documented during the study period, averaging more than 24,000 children annually — or 66 children per day, treated in an emergency department.

Falls from a shopping cart accounted for the majority of injuries (70.4 percent), followed by running into/falling over the cart, cart tip-overs and entrapment of extremities in the cart. The most commonly injured body region was the head (78.1 percent). While soft-tissue injuries were the most common diagnosis for these head injuries, the annual rate of concussions and closed head injuries (concussions and internal head injuries) increased from 3,483 injuries in 1990 to 12,333 in 2011. Most of this increase was among children age 4 and younger .

“The findings from our study show that the current voluntary standards for shopping cart safety are not adequate” and should be improved, said Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Suggested design changes include improving performance standards for restraint systems and placing the child seating area near the floor. This latter design change would be safer, because it would reduce the risk of cart tip-over by lowering the center of gravity of the cart and decrease the risk of injury from falls because the child is much closer to the ground.

In addition to design changes, researchers noted that interventions designed to teach parents how to safely use shopping carts, store-wide broadcasts encouraging safety-belt use and having store employees encourage families to use the cart safety belts would also help reduce the number of shopping-cart-related injuries.

Tips for preventing shopping cart-related injuries include:

Use safety straps and be sure that your child is snugly secured in them and that the child’s legs are placed through the cart’s leg openings. If parts of the cart restraint system are missing or are not working, choose another cart.

Use a cart that has a child seat that is low to the ground, if one is available.

Make sure your child remains seated, and don’t leave him or her alone.

Avoid placing infant carriers on top of shopping carts. If your child is not old enough to sit upright in the shopping cart seat, consider leaving your child at home with another adult, using a front-pack or backpack carrier, or using a stroller.