While back pain, blurred vision and mouse-related injuries are now well-documented hazards of long-term computer use, the number of acute injuries connected to computers is rising rapidly.
According to a study published in the July 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital; and The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus have found a more-than-sevenfold increase in computer-related injuries due to tripping over computer equipment, head injuries due to computer monitor falls and other physical incidents.
According to data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database, over 78,000 cases of acute computer-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1994 through 2006. Approximately 93% of injuries occurred at home. The number of acute computer-related injuries increased by 732% over the 13-year study period, which is more than double the increase in household computer ownership (309%).
Injury mechanisms included hitting against or catching on computer equipment; tripping or falling over computer equipment; computer equipment falling on top of the patient; and the straining of muscles or joints. The computer part most often associated with injuries was the monitor. The percentage of monitor-related cases increased significantly, from 11.6% in 1994 to a peak of 37.1% in 2003. By 2006, it had decreased to 25.1%. The decrease since 2003 corresponds to the replacement of heavier cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors with smaller and easier-to-lift liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors.
Children aged <5 years had the highest injury rate of all age groups. The most common cause of injury was tripping or falling by patients aged <5 years (43.4%) and ≥60 years (37.7%) and hitting or getting caught on computer equipment for individuals of all other ages (36.9% of all cases). While injuries to the extremities were most common (57.4%), children aged <10 years most often had injuries to the head (75.8% for those aged <5 years and 61.8% for those aged 5-9 years).
According to Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, MA, Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy, Columbus, "Future research on acute computer-related injuries is needed as this ubiquitous product becomes more intertwined in our everyday lives. More information is needed on the types of computers and equipment used, the layout of these systems, and the furniture utilized in order to develop household-safety practices in this area…Given the large increase in acute computer-related injuries over the study period, greater efforts are needed to prevent such injuries, especially among young children."
- Angela Y. Douglas, Tracy J. Mehan, Christy L. Collins, Gary A. Smith, Lara B. McKenzie. Acute Computer-Related Injuries Treated in U.S. Emergency Departments, 1994-2006. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2009; 37 (1): 24 DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.04.001
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