Death by headphones

January 18, 2012

Researchers from University of Maryland School of Medicine and The University of Maryland Medical Center find that as use of mobile devices increase, so does the risk of injury from distraction and blocking out other sounds.

The research team studied case reports from databases, such as the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, for pedestrian injuries or fatalities from crashes involving trains or motor vehicles between 2004 and 2011. From there, cases involving headphone use were summarized.

From 2004 to 2011, 116 accident cases were reviewed in which pedestrians were reported to be wearing headphones. The analysis found that 70 percent of the 116 accidents resulted in death to the pedestrian. Science Daily reports that more than two thirds of the victims were male (68%) and under 30 years old (67%).

55 percent of the vehicles involved were trains and almost 29 percent of the vehicles reported sounding a warning horn prior to the crash. The researchers noted that distraction and sensory deprivation are the two phenomena likely to be associated with these incidents.

WebMD reports that the number of injuries corresponds to the rising popularity of iPods and other MP3 devices. Between 2004 and 2005, 16 injuries had been reported, and by 2010 to 2011, the number had jumped to 47.

Dr. Richard Lichenstein, lead study author and director of pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center, says:

“Everybody is aware of the risk of cell phones and texting in automobiles, but I see more and more teens distracted with the latest devices and headphones in their ears…Unfortunately as we make more and more enticing devices, the risk of injury from distraction and blocking out other sounds increases.”

The study is published in the journal Injury Prevention.


Brain strain

May 10, 2011

A new study out of the Netherlands finds that some of the most simple every day activities may increase the risk of an aneurysm rupture.

250 people who had suffered from a subarachnoid hemorrhage participated in the study. The research team surveyed the participants, asking the frequency and intensity of exposure to 30 potential triggers before the hemorrhage took place.

TIME outlines the eight activities that may be associated with an increased risk of rupture for untreated brain aneurysms:

•    Coffee consumption -10.6%
•    Vigorous physical exercise – 7.9%
•    Nose blowing – 5.4%
•    Sexual intercourse – 4.3%
•    Straining to defecate – 3.6%
•    Cola consumption – 3.5%
•    Being startled – 2.7%
•    Being angry – 1.3%

As the Los Angeles Times points out, the common link between these activities is the temporary, sudden increase in blood pressure.

So, what does the research team recommend?

 “Reducing caffeine consumption or treating constipated patients with unruptured [intracranial aneurysms] with laxatives may lower the risk of [subarachnoid hemorrhage]. Although physical exercise has a triggering potential, we do not advise refraining from physical exercise because it is also an important factor in lowering the risk of other cardiovascular diseases.”

This study is published in the journal Stroke.


Beware the bobsled

September 10, 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics may have ended months ago, but a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine is only now counting up the cost: one in 10 Olympians experienced an injury and one in 14 suffered an illness.

The researchers analyzed information from the 82 national team doctors, which included reports of 287 injuries and 185 illnesses. Meaning out of the 2,567 Olympians, 11.2 percent experienced at least one injury, notes the LA Times.  About 22 percent of those injuries resulted in athletes being unable to compete in their sport.

According to HealthDay, female athletes experienced a higher injury rate than men – 131.1 per 1,000 compared to 93.3 per 1,000.

What were the most dangerous winter sports? Bobsledding, ice hockey, short-track skating, alpine freestyle skiing, snowboard halfpipe and snowboard cross were associated with the most injuries. Olympians competing in Nordic skiing events, as well as luge, curling, speed skating, and freestyle moguls had the lowest risk of injury.

The head, spine, and knees were the most common injured areas of the body, and the most common types of injuries were bruising, ligament and muscular sprains.

HealthDay reports these additional findings:

  • There was one death — an athlete who died while training for luge.
  • About 20 percent of female athletes in bobsled, ice hockey, snowboard cross and in freestyle cross and aerials suffered an injury. Just under 28 percent of male athletes were injured in short track, 17 percent in bobsled, and just under 16 percent in hockey.
  • About 10 percent of athletes in skeleton, figure and speed skating, curling, snowboard cross and biathlon had at least one illness, 62 percent of which were respiratory infections.

Sleigh bumps

August 25, 2010

Many of you may still be in a summer state of mind, but new research already has us thinking about winter fun. A new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy finds that sledding is responsible for a staggering average of 20,820 injuries per year.

Using data from the National Electronic Surveillance System, researchers determined an average yearly sledding injury rate of 26 per 100,000 children ages nineteen and younger. MedPage Today reports that boys were the most prone to sledding accidents (particularly those between the ages of ten and fourteen), accounting for 60 percent of those injured.

Overall, the head was the most commonly injured area of the body, making up 34 percent of the injuries requiring hospital care. Here is the breakdown of injuries as reported by HealthDay:

  • Fractures – 26 %
  • Cuts and bruises – 25 %
  • Strains/sprains – 16 %
  • Traumatic brain injuries – 9 %

According to WebMD, 4.1 percent of all emergency department visits required hospitalization. Collisions of all types – whether with trees, people, or poles – were the most common cause of sledding injuries, occurring 50.6 percent of the time. Snow tubes were the most likely to lead to brain injuries and children ages four and under, were found to be four times more likely to sustain a head injury, Reuters reports.

The researchers also found that 51.8 percent of injuries occurred at a public sports or recreation area, and 31 percent took place on private property.

This study will be published in the September issue of Pediatrics. For sledding safety tips, click here.


Heading to the slopes

February 3, 2010

The majority of skiers and snowboarders are probably very aware that wearing a helmet is an important safety precaution, but a new study shows just how essential the helmet really is. Research out of the University of Calgary has found that wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding was associated with a 35 percent decrease in the risk of head injuries.  Wearing a helmet may also prevent between two and five out of every ten head injuries.

This meta-analysis included twelve studies from Europe, Asia and the United States. MedPage Today reports that in all, the studies included 9,829 participants who were wearing helmets and 36,735 who were not. It has previously been thought that helmets could increase the risk of neck injury; however, this study did not find a link between the two. According to WebMD, this holds true for children as well.

There are some limitations to this study (visit MedPage Today to see the list), perhaps the biggest being that the researchers were not able to examine the quality or fit of the helmets. The researchers say, “Methodologically rigorous research is required to determine which types of helmets provide the best protection”.

Time’s Wellness Blog provides another interesting insight:

“…the researchers emphasized that helmets are not a foolproof way to prevent injury. As they point out, in fact, if wearers develop a false sense of security about their safety, helmets could even prompt more reckless behavior. Previous study has yielded mixed results—some research indicates that helmet-wearers do tend to be more aggressive, and while other investigations found that helmets encouraged more caution.”

This study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.


Tanning beds as harmful as smoking

July 31, 2009

New research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that tanning beds are even more dangerous than previously thought. The IARC has moved tanning beds from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to the highest cancer risk category, calling them “carcinogenic to humans”. They will join other Group 1 hazards including cigarettes, asbestos, and arsenic.

This past June, scientists from several different countries met to analyze 20 studies that linked tanning beds and skin cancer. After examining the data, the IARC has found tanning beds can increase the risk of developing skin cancer by 75%, especially if use begins before the age of 30. The IARC also discovered evidence that links tanning beds with melanoma of the eye.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of young women who have been diagnosed with melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer. According to WebMD:

“[IARC’s Vincent] Cogliano said studies conducted over the past decade provide an ‘an abundance of evidence’ that tanning bed use has played a role in this rise, along with direct sun exposure.”

With the release of these results, the World Health Organization hopes to persuade governments to regulate the use of tanning beds, as well as restrict their use to those who are 18 and over.

The report is published in the August issue of Lancet Oncology.


Till cohabitation do us part

July 17, 2009

A new study has some grim news for the majority of unmarried couples in the United States. According to researchers at the University of Denver, couples who live together before marrying have a higher chance of divorcing than those who wait to be married or engaged. The research team estimates that at least 70 percent of couples in the U.S. live together before marriage.

It has previously been thought that living together can be a good test run for marriage; however, another study conducted by the same team found that living together solely for this reason leads to the most problems. Lead author of the study, Galena Rhoades, explains why:

“We think that some couples who move in together without a clear commitment to marriage may wind up sliding into marriage partly because they are already cohabitating.”

The researchers conducted telephone surveys of more than 1,000 married men and women between ages 18 and 34 who had been married within the past ten years. As part of the survey, the team asked questions about relationship satisfaction, dedication, and divorce potential.

According to the study’s findings, approximately 43% of couples surveyed lived together before getting married or engaged. These couples reported considerably lower relationship satisfaction, dedication, self-confidence, and greater divorce potential than those who waited to cohabitate until they were engaged (16.4%) or married (40.5%).

This study was published in the February issue of the Journal of Family Psychology. Rhoades’ study examining the reasons couples decide to move-in together can be found in the February issue of the Journal of Family Issues.


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