Is your cell phone dangerous to your health?

Have you ever been walking along while looking at your cell phone and nearly run into someone or something? If so, you’re not alone. It happens to me all the time. If I veer into another person’s path, I move aside, apologize, and promise myself I’ll be more careful. And then I return to whatever I was doing on my phone.

Maybe there’s a message in this I’m missing. That’s certainly the suggestion of a new study on head and neck injuries linked to cell phone use.

Which injuries are most likely — and where do they occur?

Using data from 100 hospitals in the US, researchers reviewed injuries to the head and neck related to cell phone use affecting more than 2,500 people over the last 20 years. Analysis of these injuries showed that:

  • About 40% of these injuries occurred at home.
  • A “direct mechanical injury” (such as being struck by a cell phone or an injury related to an exploding battery) accounted for 47% of cases, while use-related injuries accounted for 53%. However, this varied by age. Direct injury was much more common among those younger than age 13. Injuries directly related to use (such as distraction while texting) were more common among older individuals.
  • About 10% of injuries occurred while a person was driving and using a cell phone, about 7% occurred while walking, and only about 1% were reported while the user was texting.
  • 94% of those who did get injured required no treatment or were treated in the ED and released. While cuts and bruises accounted for over half of these cases, 18% were more serious, including traumatic brain injury.
  • The rate of these injuries has increased dramatically since 2007, when the Apple IPhone was introduced.

If the experience of these hospitals is representative of the nation as a whole, it translates to an estimated 76,000 people suffering head and neck injuries related to cell phone use over the last two decades. Even though this number is large, it’s less than two injuries per 100,000 cell phone users each year.

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