New study says phone-related head injuries increased following iPhone's release

Steve Jobs and iPhone
Steve Jobs and iPhone (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • A study looked into head injury data from 1998 to 2017.
  • Injuries increased following the release of iPhone in 2007.
  • Distracted users can't stop walking into things.

The number of head injuries caused by phones increased from 2007 onwards, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery (via The Verge).

Following the arrival of iPhone in 2007 the world has become one very much attached to mobile devices. We use them in ways that were never invisaged before smartphones became popular, so it stands to reason that this often over-use is causing problems.

The study looked into injuries from 1998 through 2017 and estimated that the total number of head injuries caused by phones. During that time period 100 hospitals reported 2,501 injuries that were caused by phones. Based on that, the study believes more than 76,000 injuries occurred nationwide. But things are more complicated, with the study's authors looking at how people were injured.

Cellphone injuries fall into one of two categories, with roughly the same number in each: direct mechanical injuries (like someone dropping their phone on their face or hitting a sibling with a phone) and cellphone use-associated injuries, like someone tripping on the sidewalk while they were distracted by Instagram. Kids under the age of 13 were far more likely to suffer direct injuries — they accounted for 82 percent of the injuries to that group — while older adults above the age of 50 were more at risk of use-associated injuries.

The study found people were managing to hurt themselves in some weird and wonderful ways. Almost 100 people sustained injuries while distracted by Pokémon Go, while others simply walked into things or had car accidents because they were texting.

Of course, anyone who has dropped their phone on their face while reading in bed will not be surprised by any of this. As humans we're more than capable of finding new ways to damage ourselves. And the proliferation of phones from 2007 onwards just helps us do that.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.