On Thursday, a new study published on JAMA Otolaryngol Head and Neck Surgery has found that there is a noticeable increase in the number of neck and head injuries caused by distraction when people use their cellphones.
Most of the reported injuries were mild. However, several cases led to traumatic brain damages and facial lacerations that would cause serious complications in the long term.
This is the first research that studies the role of cellphones in causing injuries in different body parts.
The lead author of the study began examining the statistics after noticing some patients with facial wounds or broken jaws who reported that they did not pay attention to surroundings when looking at their smartphones.
“We do not think that everyone is aware of the fact that we are so fragile. Humans are resilient, but we are also vulnerable. Just a fall and anyone would suffer from a severe injury,” said the author.
The research examined phone-related injuries in the neck and head. All of the statistics were collected by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a system that gathered the number of visits to emergency rooms in more than 100 medical facilities in the United States.
Between 1998 and 2017, around 2,500 people had health problems related to cellphones. When extrapolated on a national scale, the number would be up to 75,000 patients.
Neck and head issues caused by phone use were quite rare. The number started to rise significantly in 2007 when the first iPhone was launched.
Young people, ranging from 13 to 29 years old, accounted for more than 40% of the reported cases. The majority of injuries due to distraction occurred in this group.
According to the study, 12% of the cases involved neck areas, 30% involved facial areas, including noses, eyes, and eyelids, and 30% affected head areas.
Many cases occurred because people fell when they were staring at their cellphones and did not pay attention to the surroundings. Younger people who are under 13 years old tended to be directly affected.
A few common injuries include abrasions, bruises, lacerations, and scarring. All of these problems would result in lower self-esteem and anxiety over time.
The study suggests that there should be more focus on public education about the increasing risks of distraction caused by smartphones, in addition to driving and texting. In fact, the government of New York introduced a ban on texting when crossing the street earlier in 2019.