December 05, 2019
2 min read

Injuries linked to cell phone use on the rise

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Cell phone-related head and neck injuries have increased significantly in recent years, according to a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head Neck Surgery.

Study author Boris Paskhover, MD, a facial plastics and reconstructive surgeon at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told Healio Primary Care that he became interested in studying cell phone-related injuries after seeing several patients who were, “walking down the street with their phone in their hand, and the next thing you know they would trip, fall and break their jaw.”

Paskhover and colleagues used information from a national database to conduct a cross-sectional study of patients with head and neck injuries who presented at the ED with a cell phone-related injury.

Researchers looked at injuries that were associated with cell phone use, including those resulting from texting while driving or walking. They also evaluated injuries that resulted from physical harm caused by cell phone, such as injuries sustained from the battery exploding or being hit in the face with the device.

Source: JAMA Otolaryngology–Head Neck Surgery

They found that between January 1998 and December 2017, there were an estimated 2,501 patients who presented at EDs with cell phone-related head and neck injuries, resulting in an estimated weighted national total of 76,043 patients.

Regarding type of injury, 26.3% of injuries in the estimated total were lacerations, 24.5% were contusions or abrasions, and 18.4% were internal organ injuries.

woman texting 
Cell phone-related head and neck injuries have increased significantly in recent years, according to a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head Neck Surgery.

A total of 14,150 estimated weighted cases were caused by distraction — 7,240 cases occurred when patients were driving and using a cell phone and 5,080 occurred when patients were walking while using a smartphone. Ninety of these cases were attributed to the patient playing Pokémon Go.

Researchers found that 60.3% (Cramer V = 0.29) of injuries tied to distractions from cell phone use occurred among those aged 13 to 29 years.

Cases in children aged younger than 13 years were more likely to have injuries caused directly by a cell phone, while adults aged 50 to 65 years and older were more likely to have injuries associated with cell phone use.

Paskhover and colleagues identified a spike in cases in 2007, which leveled off in 2008 and then increased dramatically after 2009.

“The first iPhone came out in 2007, right around the time that all these cell phone-based injuries really took off,” Paskhover said. “I’m not saying it’s iPhone itself, I’m saying it’s telephones as a media platform — the fact that we aren’t using our phones as phones anymore, we’re using them to read and walk around and look at stuff as we’re doing our daily activity — that puts us in danger.”


He explained that physicians should remind their patients that distractive behavior, such as texting and walking across a street or driving, will put them at risk for injury. – by Erin Michael


Povolotskiy R, et al. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019;doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2019.3678.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.