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Cell phones cause over 76,000 head and neck injuries each year, study says

Distractions caused by cellphones were the biggest reason for injury and mainly affected people aged 13 to 29

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Most people own a cell phone and rely on it to get through the day. However, you may want to give it a rest and pay attention.

 Distracted driving statistics are well documented. They demonstrate how the dangers of compulsive web surfing and texting. Now doctors who are seeing the uptick of non-driving neck, head, face and eye injuries have started wondering how many of them were caused by cell phones.

A team of specialists from Rutgers New jersey Medical School analyzed about 20 years of emergency room data from 1998 through 2017. Their study published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, showed that head and neck injuries incurred while driving or walking with a cellphone are on the rise. 

The injuries spiked in 2007 as smart phones became popular.

Many of the injuries were minor cuts and bruises, but others were more severe, like broken bones and internal organ injuries. These types of injuries could have long term complications.

A majority were by distraction caused by tripping and falling while using a phone. Others were caused by the devices alone, including a thrown phone hitting someone or a battery exploding.

During the study period, they found that 2,501 people aged 13–29 presented at the emergency department with head and neck injuries related to cell phone use. Based on these data, the researchers estimated a national total of 76,043 people with similar injuries.

A third of the injuries occurred in the head and neck area, and another third were facial injuries, including eyes, eyelid area, and nose. Over 12% of the injuries were to the neck.

"The most common injury diagnosis," write the study authors, "included laceration (26.3% of estimated total), contusion/abrasion (24.5%), and internal organ injury (18.4%)."

People aged 13–29 years were most at risk of these injuries.

The takeaway, according to the study, researchers hope that their findings contribute to public health strategies for prevention regarding cell phone use, particularly among young people.

The human body is fragile.  The authors go on to warn people to be aware of their surroundings when using their device and to stop walking when feeling the need to respond to a text message, email or read an article. Just because the phone is portable, doesn’t mean you have to keep moving.