Kids get a somewhat absurd amount of joy when they ride in supermarket shopping carts. But in between those high-speed pushes down the aisle, leaving a child in his seat while making a quick grab for a box of cereal can lead to serious injuries. According to a new study, more than 24,000 children each year suffer injuries related to sitting in the carts.

It seems as if there’s no way children can benefit from sitting in the carts, according to the research. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) instituted voluntary safety standards for shopping carts in 2004, which covered performance and labeling requirements, requirements for restraint systems, and test methods. But even with these extra safety measures, the average annual number of shopping cart-related injuries still rose, the current study found.

Researchers looked at data on children ages 15 and younger who were involved in shopping cart-related accidents that led to an emergency room visit between 1990 and 2011. They estimated that 530,494 children were injured, averaging to 24,113 children each year or 66 children per day. Most of the children (70.4 percent) incurred these injuries from falling out of the cart, and 78 percent of the injuries were to the head, according to a press release. The researchers found that frequency of concussions and other closed-head injuries increased the most, from 3,483 in 1990 to 12,333 in 2011. Other causes of injury were running into carts, injuries from the carts tipping over, and injuries caused by children trapping body parts in the carts.

“This is a setup for major injury,” said lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, according to NBC News. “The major group we are concerned about are children under 5.” Eighty-five percent of the children the researchers studied were under 4 years old, putting them at a possible risk for worse effects than what older children would experience from a concussion, especially if it’s happened before. A study from last June found that children and young adults aged 11 to 22 who suffered a repeated concussion were likely to take longer to recover — as much as 35 days. Meanwhile, another study found that children who suffered brain injuries or concussions were two times as likely to develop depression.

“It is time we take action to protect our children by strengthening shopping cart safety standards with requirements that will more effectively prevent tip-overs and falls from shopping carts,” Smith said in the press release. Because children don’t understand the danger they can put themselves in, Smith said that it’s “important for parents to understand that shopping carts can be a source of serious injury,” at least until certain design changes are made. These would include placing the child seat closer to the floor or improving stability standards.

Until then, the Center for Injury Research and Policy suggests a few logical precautions:

  • Probably the most obvious; choose alternatives to putting your child in a shopping cart whenever possible.
  • Maybe just as obvious; don’t place child carriers, such as car seats, on top of shopping carts. If a child isn’t old enough to sit upright in the chopping cart seat, then they shouldn’t be in it.   
  • Always use the shopping cart safety straps.
  • Be attentive of your child’s movements while in the cart.
  • Try not to step too far away from the cart while your child’s inside.

Source: Martin K, Smith G, Xiang H, et al. Pediatric Shopping-Cart-Related Injuries Treated in US Emergency Departments, 1990-2011. Clinial Pediatrics. 2014.