Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Unicycles, Not All Fun And Games?

Finally a study on Unicycles! According to Dr. Marvin Wang, the author of the recently published article “Unicycle Injuries In the United States”, his chart review of the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) is the entirety of the world’s literature on unicycle injuries. To my utter disappointment there were zero cases of falls from a tight rope or burns from a mishandled flaming juggling pin. Even the author himself observes that unicycles, once exclusively ridden by professional “circus folk” and acrobats, have now become primarily an amateur endeavor.

Ironically the same inherent mechanics and “sense of danger” that made the unicycle a popular circus act, makes it far safer than its two-wheeled cousin when used by the general public. Because of its single wheel, riders are far less capable of attaining high speeds and it is therefore infrequently used as a functional means of transportation. Given this lack of functional utility, riders of unicycles seem to have escaped the more serious types of cycle accidents such as high-speed crashes and collisions with motor vehicles. Upon review of the 85 cases of documented unicycle injuries found in the NEISS database from 1991 to 2010, the author extrapolates that 168 people a year visit the emergency department for unicycle related injuries in the United States. The most common injuries acquired were extremity fractures, sprains and strains. Very few head and neck injuries occurred, and the majority of these were scraps and abrasions.

The biggest weakness of this study is that we are unable to determine a denominator. Since we do not know what percentage of the US population at any time are riding unicycles, we are unable to quantify the risk of riding such a contraption. It may be that only a small percentage of riders will sustain an injury that requires an ED visit. Conversely it is possible that the risk is much higher. If you do decide to mount one of these single wheeled cycles you may be taking your life, or at least your limb into your own hands…

"Unicycle Injuries In the United States"

For more nihilism, emergency medicine and the art of doing nothing see emnerd.com and @CaptainBasilEM


  1. hahahah well-played! I've been loving your stuff over on EM Nerd so it's nice to see Radecki invited you to play over here as well.

  2. Thanks, I'm just waiting for the publication of the follow up article on pogo stick injuries in the US. Thank you for your support!

  3. Fantastic. Gotta love the unicyclists. I was feeling very proud of myself mountain biking a gnarly downhill slope when a friggen unicyclist cycled UP towards me!


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