A study published in December in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery shows that injuries related to people being distracted by their cellphones is on the rise – specifically, head and neck injuries related to tripping and falling.
How are cell phones causing injuries?
Researchers collected data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a database with information about ER visits from around 100 hospitals in the U.S. Between January 1998 and December 2017, 2,501 patients visited the hospital for injuries caused by distractions from cellphones. Researchers estimate that this would amount to around 76,000 injuries on a national scale.
Injuries rose steadily for decades
These injuries were somewhat rare from when the study began until 2007, which is the year the first iPhone was released. These numbers then increased significantly until they peaked in 2016. Most injuries, about 40 percent, occurred in the age group between ages 13 and 29. Younger patients were more likely to be harmed by the cellphone itself – either by dropping it on their face or being accidentally hit with one by somebody else, like their parent.
What caused the most injury?
Many of the injuries were caused by tripping and falling while patients were looking down, distracted by their phones. About a third of cases accounted for injury to the face, particularly the eyes and nose; another third involved the head. Twelve percent of the recorded injuries were to the neck, and 18 percent involved damage to organs. Twenty-six percent of injuries included lacerations.
So What’s the Takeaway?
“I don’t think people are aware of how fragile we are as humans. We’re resilient, but we’re also fragile. You fall and you can get a pretty bad injury … We have a skull that protects our brain, but it doesn’t mean it’s impervious. Your brain is soft. I see patients who die just from falling. A fall from upright — you fall, you hit your head the wrong way, you get a traumatic brain injury.”
“Don’t be distracted — period,” Paskhover warned. “Be self-aware. Answer a text message, fine, but you shouldn’t be walking around reading articles on your phone.”
If you’ve suffered a fall and hit your head, it’s important to see a Central Plains ENT physician right away. Left untreated, brain injuries can have long-term consequences.