How Common are Cell Phone-Related Head and Neck Injuries?

Rates of head and neck injuries related to cell phone use are on the rise, with a steep increase since 2007, when the first iPhone was released, according to a study in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery. Researchers warn that cell phone users should be especially careful when driving, walking, and texting, as distraction is a leading cause of these injuries.
cell phone use can be distracting and cause injury when walkingDistracted while using her cell phone, a girl walks into a street post. Research reports rates of head and neck injuries related to cell phone use are on the rise. Photo Source: total of 2,501 reported cases of cell phone-related head and neck injuries leading to emergency room visits between January 1998 and December 2017 were found in a nationwide database. Nearly 40% of these injuries occurred in teens and young adults aged 13 to 29 years (38%), and injuries were slightly more common in women (55%) than men (45%).

Most Common Cell Phone-Related Injuries

The cell phone-related head and neck injuries included cuts, bruises, abrasions and internal injuries (commonly traumatic brain injury), especially around the eye and nose. More than 41% of injuries occurred at home and were minor, requiring little or no treatment. About 50% of head and neck injuries resulted from distracted driving, and one-third from distracted walking (Table).

Table: Causes of Distraction-Related Cell Phone Injuries to the Head and NeckTable: Causes of Distraction-Related Cell Phone Injuries to the Head and Neck. Source: Povolotskiy R, et al. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Dec 5. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2019.3678. [Epub ahead of print]

“Distracted activities in and outside the house put you at risk for trips, slips, and falls, which can have other consequences,” said senior author Boris Paskhover, MD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ. “More patients are getting injured due to the fact that they are using their phones during daily activities and not paying attention to their surroundings.”

Children under 13 years were significantly more likely to suffer a mechanical injury, such as a cell phone battery exploding or parents accidentally dropping a cellphone on a child or a child hitting themselves in the face with the phone. In addition, 90 cases involved injury while playing Pokémon Go.

“The findings suggest a need for education about the risks of cellphone use and distracted behavior during other activities as well as driving and walking,” Dr. Paskhover said.

Dr. Paskhover has no relevant disclosures.

Updated on: 01/09/20
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