(USA TODAY) – Created for convenience, our cellphones are fighting back.
A study looking at 20 years of data from emergency rooms found a recent spike in cellphone–related injuries to the head, neck, face and eyes.
Many of the injuries were minor – cuts and bruises – but some were more severe fractures and internal organ injuries and had the risk of long-term complications, the study published Thursday says.
Many of the cases also resulted from distraction, such as driving or walking while using their phone, while others were caused by the devices themselves, such as a phone hitting someone’s face or battery exploding.
“Our study’s findings suggest a need for public education about the risks of cellphone use and distracted behavior during other activities as well as driving,” the study says.
The study published in the peer-reviewed JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery looked at data from U.S. emergency departments between January 1998 and December 2017.
The research showed the head and neck injuries increase steadily then spike in 2007 as smartphones entered the market. “These devices have become a necessary but potentially dangerous tool used by most people in the United States,” the study says.
Using data from 100 hospitals that recorded 2,501 patients with these injuries during the period studied, the researchers estimate the national total was 76,043 patients.
The largest percentage of injuries occurred at home. Teens and young adults under 30 were most at risk for injury, the research shows. When looking at cases of distraction, those ages 13 to 29 were also most at risk for injury while driving, walking or texting.
The study also found instances of injury while using augmented reality–based video games. An estimated 90 injuries related to Pokémon Go, for example, occurred, the study says.
Study author Dr. Boris Paskhover of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark told the Associated Press that people need to be more careful to not get absorbed in their phones. He said seeing patients who tripped or were otherwise injured using their phones caused him to look at the problem.
“I love my smartphone,” he told the news agency, but added, “People wouldn’t walk around reading a magazine.”