Mind that monitor: computer related injuries on the rise

San Diego, CA – Please be careful: you’re indulging in a dangerous activity right now. According to a study, the number of computer-related injuries is rocketing.

Quite apart from the well-known risks of back pain, blurred vision and mouse-related injuries, it seems computers can represent a more basic danger. Researchers from the 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, over 78,000 cases of acute computer-related injuries were treated in US emergency departments between 1994 and 2006. Approximately 93 percent of injuries occurred at home. The number increased by 732 percent over the 13-year study period – more than double the increase in household computer ownership at 309 percent – implying that we’re getting stupider.

Causes 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 most hazardous bit of kit is the monitor, which clearly has some sort of master plan to wipe out the human race. The percentage of monitor-related cases shot up from 11.6 percent in 1994 to a peak of 37.1 percent in 2003. But we’ve foiled its evil plan: by 2006, the percentage had fallen to 25.1 percent, thanks to the replacement of heavier cathode ray tube monitors with smaller and easier-to-lift LCD versions.

Children under five are at most risk of injury, generally by tripping over stuff or by hitting or getting caught on equipment. Children over 10 most frequently injure their heads.

Lara B McKenzie of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy commented, “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.”

The study will be published in the July 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.