Are you reading this on your cell phone? Check your posture and your surroundings! A study published yesterday in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery reports that the number of head and neck injuries related to cell phone use has increased, based on data from 1998 to 2017. According to the study, the 2007 release of the Apple iPhone was associated with a steep increase in reported injuries.
Dr. Boris Paskhover of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School led this study. The Associated Press reports that his ample experience treating patients with cell phone-related injuries—including a woman who broke her nose dropping her phone on her face—inspired Dr. Paskhover to investigate this problem.
The data used in this study was from a national database of individuals who visited an emergency department with head and neck injuries related to cell phone use. About 2,500 patient reports were utilized, which scales up to an estimate of 76,000 people injured during the study period. An estimated 14,150 people reported being distracted; 7,420 were driving; 1,022 were texting, and 5,080 were walking and using a cell phone.
The most common sites of injuries of the head and neck included the head, face, eyes, eyelids, nose, and neck. The most common injury, reported by 26% of study participants, was a laceration. Contusion or abrasion accounted for 24% of injuries, while internal organ damage accounted for nearly 18%. Newsweek reports that the internal organ injuries were mostly traumatic brain injuries caused by being hit in the face by a phone or the result of a battery exploding.
Among individuals aged 13 to 29, cell phone use distraction-related injuries occurred at a rate of 60%. Cell phone users younger than 13 are at a significantly higher risk of direct mechanical injury than use-associated injury—82% and nearly 18%. The opposite is true for those aged 50 to 64, where use-associated injuries account for 68% of reported injuries, and 32% are from direct mechanical injury. For those older than 65, use-associated injury jumps to 90%.
Despina Stavrinos, associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, told Newsweek reporters that “most of the injuries in this study occurred at home; however, a smaller yet significant portion occurred in traffic environments.” She continues by stating “distracted walking, bicycling, and driving are common and extremely dangerous activities among youth that increases their risk of injury.”
The research report concludes by suggesting a need for more education to prevent cell phone-related injuries and promote safe cell phone use. As Dr. Paskhover told AP reports, “people wouldn’t walk around reading a magazine…be careful.”