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Look Out! Computers Have Unseen Risks

Study Shows Rise in Injuries From Tripping Over Computer Monitors and Wires
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 10, 2009 -- Gazing at the computer screen may hurt your eyes, but it's what people don't see when they're near the machines that cause the most injuries, new research indicates.

Apparently, people don't see monitors, wires, and related gadgets, because there's been more than a sevenfold increase in injuries from actions such as tripping over computer equipment since the machines became ubiquitous, scientists report in the July 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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According to data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database, more than 78,000 cases of acute computer-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency rooms from 1994 through 2006.

About 93% of the injuries occurred at home.

Over the study period, the number of acute computer-related injuries increased by 732%, which is more than double the increase in household computer ownership of 309%, researchers say in a news release.

Reported injuries were due to hitting body parts or getting caught on computer equipment, tripping, or falling over wires or other gadgets, equipment falling on top of people, and the straining of joints and muscles, according to the researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy, the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, and the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

The young and the old had the highest injury rates. The most common cause of injury was tripping or falling in children less than 5 years old and in people over 60 years old.

Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, of the Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, says scientists need to stay on top of the computer-injury topic as the machines become even more intertwined with everyday life.

"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," she says in a news release. "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."

According to the study:

99.3% of patients seen at ERs for computer injuries were treated and released, though 4% of people 60 and over were admitted or transferred to another hospital.

58.9% of injuries involved moving the computer or a component. Also, 15.4% of injuries were related to fixing, installing, or plugging in a computer, and 6.7% to using one.

The most common diagnosis in all age groups was laceration -- 58.4% to the extremities and 41.3% to the head. Contusions and abrasions were the second most common injury.

The researchers say the true rate of computer-related injuries may be even greater because their data captured only those people whose injuries required treatment in emergency departments.

They say more information is needed on how computers are used in everyday life, how the machines and equipment are laid out, and on the furniture used.

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