More than half of people injured in e-scooter accidents were not wearing helmets, according to new research carried out in Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown in Dublin.
The research, the first of its kind in Ireland, found injuries sustained from e-scooters were severe and complex, frequently resulting in surgery.
Analysis of patients attending Connolly Hospital over a 12-month period was carried out to assess the burden of e-scooter accidents on the healthcare system.
Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ciara Fox said the injuries were "quite extensive, complex injuries and even after surgical reconstruction patients had a high risk of post-traumatic arthritis".
Dr Fox said the majority of the patients were aged in their late 30s and early 40s and almost half of them were using an e-scooter to commute to and from work.
The research, entitled 'An Analysis of E-Scooter Related Trauma', looked at 22 patients treated at Connolly Hospital after being involved in an e-scooter accident between October 2019 and November 2020.
Two of the injured were pedestrians.
Co-author Dr Margaret Grace said: "The burden is relatively small at the minute, but given the high numbers needing surgery, the burden on orthopaedic teams is significant and that is going to increase with their popularity."
The analysis shows that 68% of those treated at the hospital sustained fractures in the accidents.
More than one third of the patients treated were admitted to hospital for surgery with their length of stay ranging from one to 14 nights.
Researchers found 73% of the patients were male and just over half of all patients did not have a full driving licence.
The analysis also found that one in four had less than a week of e-scooter driving experience, while 60% said they had less than six months' experience.
Dr Fox said almost half of the patients had some form of head injury and one in ten required a CT brain scan to assess for intracerebral bleeds.
She said 60% of patients had not been wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
"It is quite serious and something as simple as a helmet and the education for people to be aware that a helmet can be life-saving," she said.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Fox also said she believes failure to wear a helmet stems from an attitude that electric scooters are children's recreational devices, whereas they are mechanically propelled vehicles and need to be taken seriously.
She said it was quite surprising that people were not wearing helmets, when people have become so au fait with cycling safety measures.
Dr Grace said: "This is the first study in Ireland on e-scooter [related injuries]. It is certainly not the first worldwide.
"There's been multiple studies done in the United States, Austria, Germany and New Zealand which have repeatedly shown that as e-scooters become more popular Emergency Departments and orthopaedic teams are seeing much more of these injures."
The report, co-authored by Dr Grace, Dr Fox, Stephen Fahy and Anthony Farrell found that "high speed, low fall height and short reaction time, in combination with a lack of personal protective equipment, means users are particularly vulnerable to upper extremity head injuries".
The report authors believe now is the time for action to ensure the safety of e-scooter users, calling for the enforcement of protective gear, including helmets along with the introduction of speed limits
They said e-scooters make very little noise so users should be encouraged to make themselves as visible as possible with reflective clothing and lighting.
Dr Grace said: "E- scooters have a lot to offer the consumer, they're cheap, environmentally friendly and really convenient. This is our chance now, as they become even more popular, to make them safer and to protect these very vulnerable users on our roads."
It is not legal to use e-scooters under current road traffic road traffic law, but Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said new legislation is on the way to regulate their use.
A spokesperson for the minister said the proposed legislation is currently being drafted with the intention to progress it as quickly as is possible to do so.