Head and Neck Injuries Associated With Cell Phone Use

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020 Feb 1;146(2):122-127. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2019.3678.


Importance: As cell phones gain more influence in daily life, they also become potentially more hazardous. Injuries resulting from cell phone use have long been reported largely in the context of driving-related incidents, but other mechanisms of injury have been underreported.

Objective: To assess the incidence, types, and mechanisms of head and neck injuries associated with cell phone use.

Design, setting, and participants: Retrospective cross-sectional study using data from a national database of individuals with head and neck injuries related to cell phone use who presented to emergency departments in the United States between January 1998 and December 2017.

Main outcomes and measures: Incidence, types, and mechanisms of injury related to cell phone use in the US population.

Results: A reported total of 2501 patients (1129 [55.0%] female, 795 [38.8%] white, and 772 [37.6%] aged 13-29 years) presented with injuries of the head and neck related to cell phone use; the estimated weighted national total was 76 043 patients (42 846 females [56.3%], 34 894 [45.9%] white, and 29 956 [39.4%] aged 13-29 years). The most commonly reported subsites of injuries in the head and neck region included the head (33.1% of estimated total); face, including eyelid, eye area, and nose (32.7%); and neck (12.5%). The most common injury diagnoses included laceration (26.3% of estimated total), contusion/abrasion (24.5%), and internal organ injury (18.4%). Age group distributions showed that most injuries associated with cell phone user distraction occurred among individuals aged 13 to 29 years (60.3%; Cramer V = 0.29). In addition, those younger than 13 years were significantly more likely to sustain direct mechanical injury from a cell phone (82.1%) than to have a cell phone use-associated injury (17.9%) (Cramer V = 0.305), whereas a cell phone use-associated injury was more likely than a direct mechanical injury to occur among those aged 50 to 64 years (68.2% vs 31.8%; Cramer V = 0.11) and those older than 65 years (90.3% vs 9.7%; Cramer V = 0.29).

Conclusions and relevance: Cell phone-related injuries to the head and neck have increased steeply over the recent 20-year period, with many cases resulting from distraction. Although the disposition of most cases is simple, some injuries bear a risk of long-term complications. Many of these injuries occurred among those aged 13 to 29 years and were associated with common activities, such as texting while walking. These findings suggest a need for patient education about injury prevention and the dangers of activity while using these devices.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention
  • Cell Phone Use / adverse effects*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / etiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / prevention & control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Neck Injuries / etiology
  • Neck Injuries / prevention & control
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Text Messaging
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult