Following David Goldberg's Death, Concerns about Treadmill Safety Arise

Injuries happen often, though fatalities like Goldberg's are rare, officials say

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Photo: Kim Steele/Getty

David Goldberg’s shocking death at age 47 has brought to light fears over the potential dangers of exercise equipment.

Goldberg, husband of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, was found in a gym, lying by a treadmill and bleeding severely from the back of his head while vacationing in Mexico with family on Friday. He’d presumably slipped on the treadmill and hit the machine, according to the Nayarit State Prosecutor’s office..

Though other factors might have contributed to the SurveyMonkey CEO’s death, according to Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Kim Dulic, there were “an estimated 24,400 treadmill-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments in 2014” – but just 30 reported deaths associated with treadmills for the 10-year period between 2003 and 2012. However, per the CPSC, the machines accounted for more injuries than other pieces of workout equipment.

Trainer Harley Pasternak tells PEOPLE that these accidents are all too common – but there are ways to avoid them. “Anytime you go to a gym, make sure that you either have somebody else with you or you tell someone where you’re going,” he says. “This doesn’t only happen with treadmills but all forms of exercise – and often there’s no one around to help.”

On the treadmill specifically, Pasternak says to make sure the machine is off before getting started – an obvious but often overlooked rule. “Some people turn it on before they even get on, but you never want to do that.” Keep your feet on the steps on either side of the belt until the machine is in motion. And always use the safety clip that’s attached to the treadmill’s dashboard. “If you start to get too far from the front of the machine, it’ll activate an emergency shut-off,” he says.

If you have a treadmill in your home, leave ample space around its back end. “If you lose control and get thrown off you don’t want to be thrown into another piece of equipment or stuck against a wall,” he explains.

And while Pasternak understands gym-goers’ desires to keep the pace, “stay in control,” he says. “I see some people try to get treadmills up to a crazy speed to challenge themselves, but the treadmill isn’t meant to push your physical boundaries – it’s meant for moderate exercise. Faster isn’t better.”

Common sense rules like wearing proper footwear and avoiding loose clothing (you don’t want it stuck in the treads) are on his list, too. And as Cybex Research Institute director Paul M. Juris adds, keep the focus on your workout and not the screen(s) in front of you: “Hold onto the handles during momentary lapses in stability, rather than aiming for the social media button.”

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