The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Big Number: 76,043 ER visits for injuries related to distracted cellphone use

Being distracted while using a cellphone has led to a growing number of injuries, including an estimated 76,043 emergency room visits for head and neck injuries in a recent 20-year span, research suggests. The number of injuries sped up after the mid-2000s, when Internet-connected smartphones became common, replacing less-complex devices that allowed users to merely talk and text. Beyond injuries due to cellphones causing distracted driving, the study found cellphone users often were injured when they tripped, fell or walked into things as they used their devices. The most common injuries were cuts, scrapes and bruises — about 50 percent. But 18 percent were described as injury to an internal organ, which the researchers wrote was most often a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion. The findings, published online this month in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, were based on data from 100 U.S. hospitals that the researchers extrapolated to provide the nationwide estimate of 76,043. In their commentary, the researchers wrote that by providing “constant access to a variety of applications and internet browsers, these devices have become a necessary but potentially dangerous tool used by most people in the United States.” Forty-eight states and the District ban texting while driving. Cellphone use while walking has gotten little legislative attention, although the New York state legislature has a bill pending that, if passed, “prohibits a pedestrian from using a portable electronic device while crossing a roadway” and carries a $25 to $50 fine for a first offense.

— Linda Searing

Spike seen in cellphone-linked face injuries

Digital disabilities — text neck, cellphone elbow — are painful and growing