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The clumsy & shocking truth about computer-related injuries!

Bob Brown | Jan. 12, 2017
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission database sheds light on what brings computer and video game users to the emergency room.

Some of the biggest names in tech have issued warnings over the past year about how their devices can overheat and catch on fire, but an analysis of emergency room data shows that most computer-related injuries stem from far less dramatic circumstances.

We’re talking about computers falling on people’s heads or being dropped on their toes. More than two dozen injuries resulted from tripping, such as down the stairs while carrying a computer or by getting tangled on a laptop cord. Not so shocking: A handful of injuries related to pulling out plugs too hastily.

When it comes to video game-related maladies, one Boston-area surgeon says throwback names such as PAC-MAN Wrist and Space Invader Wrist still apply to chronic overuse injuries to the wrist. "Many kids will get finger or thumb pain from overuse regularly, too," he says.

Network World has analyzed the most recent batch of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data, collected from about 100 hospitals reporting emergency room visits into the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (view an infographic highlighting the data further down in this article). NEISS is used to help spot possible issues with categories of products that are causing harm. 

While NEISS redacts most brand-specific information, it does include a general product code for computer equipment, including game consoles. A search on that product code turned up 632 injury reports in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available (injury counts were down from recent years – maybe lighter laptops deserve credit). Looking at specific demographics, more than half of the patients were identified as male, and about 350 of the patients were age 20 or under.

Most of the injury descriptions in the database are brief and cryptic, but you can get the gist. Here’s a quick spin through the lowlights. 

computer injuries 
Credit: Network World. 

A Case of the Dropsies

It’s bad enough when you drop your laptop in that you might crack the screen or damage the machine in another way. But to have it break your toe or injure your foot? That’s just rubbing it in.

But according to the NEISS numbers, computer users have serious butter fingers. More than 40 incidents involved dropping computers, tablets, monitors or gaming systems on parts of their bodies – or on someone else. You didn’t see as much of this pre-laptops, when big old PCs tended to stay in place.

A sampling:

*5-year-old male’s brother dropped *** onto his head and lacerated his scalp

*11-year-old female has pinky toe deformity after dropping an *** onto it

*22-year-old male dropped computer on pubic area, suffered testicle pain


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