Study: iPhones, ‘Pokémon Go’ likely to blame for rise in head & neck injuries

NEWARK, N. J. — Our poor necks. Between time spent hunched over staring at computer screens at work, and the constant urge to look down and check our smartphones, millions of people are doing a number on their posture each and every day. Besides the damage we’re doing while stationary, a new study finds that smartphones and their accompanying games, more specifically iPhones and the popular augmented reality game “Pokémon Go,” are likely to blame for a troubling rise in head and neck injuries incurred while either walking or driving in recent years.

It seems millions of people are so glued to their phones, they find it difficult to look up even while on the go. After reviewing 2,501 emergency patients who had sustained head or neck injuries due to cellphone use between 1998 and 2017, researchers from Rutgers University noted a steady increase in such injuries. There were particularly noticeable spikes right around the initial launch of the first iPhone model in 2007, and the release of “Pokémon Go” in 2016.

Many of the injuries included cuts, bruises, internal injuries, and abrasions around the eye and nose. While around 41% of the studied injuries occurred while patients had been at home, more than 50% happened due to distracted driving. Another third of the injuries were suffered while walking in public.

Additionally, children under the age of 13 were found to be significantly more at risk of suffering a mechanical injury. Examples of such injuries would be a cellphone battery exploding while a child is holding it, a parent accidentally dropping a phone on their child, or a child accidentally hitting themselves in the face with their phone.

“Injuries from cell phone use have mainly been reported from incidences during driving, but other types of injuries have gone largely underreported,” comments  study author Boris Paskhover, a surgeon and assistant professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, in a release.

“We hypothesize that distractions caused by cell phones were the biggest reason for injury and mainly affected people aged 13 to 29,” Paskhover adds. “The findings suggest a need for education about the risks of cell phone use and distracted behavior during other activities as well as driving and walking.”

The study is published in the scientific journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

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