April 29, 2022 -- The new 30-foot wall erected along the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego and surrounding counties has led to an increase in major injuries, hospital admissions, and migrant deaths, according to a new study published in JAMA Surgery.

The Trump administration touted the new wall as “unclimbable.” However, as construction concluded in 2019, people continued to climb, and nearby hospitals began seeing a significant increase in patients who had fallen off the wall. Injuries jumped fivefold, and deaths climbed from zero to 16.

One reason for the increase is the change in height, study authors said. The previous version ranged between six to 17 feet, which led to some injuries but not lethal falls, versus today’s 30-foot version.

“Once you go over 20 feet, and up to 30 feet, the chance of severe injury and death are higher,” Jay Doucet, MD, one of the study authors and chief of the trauma division at UC San Diego Health, told The Washington Post.

“We’re seeing injuries we didn’t see before: pelvic fractures, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries and a lot of open fractures when the bone comes through the skin,” he said.

At Scripps Mercy Hospital, another major trauma center in the San Diego area, border wall falls accounted for 16% of the 230 patients treated last month, which was higher than the number of gunshot or stabbing cases, the newspaper reported. Last year, the trauma ward treated 139 patients who were injured by border wall falls.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Vishal Bansal, the hospital’s trauma director, told the newspaper. “This is crazy.”

San Diego doctors said the patients who are injured in the falls often require complex intensive care and multiple surgeries, the newspaper reported. Without health insurance, many patients also aren’t eligible for physical therapy or rehabilitation programs.

Border crossings have increased sharply despite the 30-foot barrier, the newspaper reported. San Diego border agents made more than 16,000 arrests in March, which is about four times the monthly average before the wall was completed in 2019.

The Trump administration built 450 miles of new wall along the Mexico border for about $11 billion, mostly replacing older barriers and adding about 49 miles of new barriers. The Biden administration halted construction but has developed plans to close open gaps in Arizona.

Show Sources

JAMA Surgery: “Association of 30-ft US-Mexico Border Wall in San Diego With Increased Migrant Deaths, Trauma Center Admissions, and Injury Severity.”

The Washington Post: “The border wall Trump called unclimbable is taking a grim toll.”

© 2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info