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Computers: A Rising Health Hazard

Common methods of injury include colliding with computer equipment and tripping or falling over PC hardware, study finds.

Computers may be harmful to your health, not only in terms of repetitive stress injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, and vision issues, but also as dangerous obstacles.

Researchers have documented a more-than-sevenfold increase in computer-related injuries arising from tripping over computer equipment, head injuries from falling computer monitors, and other collisions with computers, according to a study scheduled to appear in the July 2009 issue of the American Journal Of Preventive Medicine.

The research was conducted by scientists from the Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, and from the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

When computers attack, it's typically at home. U.S. emergency rooms treated more than 78,000 cases of acute computer-related injuries between 1994 and 2006, according to figures from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database. About 93% of those incidents took place at home.

Over the course of the 13-year study period, acute computer-related injuries increased by 732% -- more than twice the 309% increase in computer ownership.

Some of the most common methods of injury include colliding with computer equipment, catching computer equipment ("Here, toss me that laser printer ..."), tripping or falling over computer equipment, standing where falling computer equipment lands, and muscle strain following attempts to lift or carry computer equipment.

Monitors represent the most dangerous piece of computer equipment. They were involved in 37.1% of incidents in 2003, up from 11.6% in 1994. In recent years, with the shift from heavy cathode-ray tube monitors toward lighter liquid crystal display monitors, such injuries have declined. In 2006, monitors accounted for 25.1% of injuries.

The study found that the most common injury was tripping or falling. Children under the age of five (43.4% of incidents) and adults of age 60 or older (37.7% of incidents) sustained such injuries more than other age groups. Hitting computer equipment or getting caught on it represented the next most common type of injury (36.9% of incidents), one that affected all age groups.

Lara B. McKenzie, a principal investigator with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy, said that the increase in computer-related injuries demands greater efforts to protect people, particularly children.

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