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7/12/2007
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iPod Worsens Man's Injuries In Lightning Strike

The bolt threw the 37-year-old man 8 feet, according to witnesses.

Getting hit by lightning is bad enough, but wearing an Apple iPod during one of those once in a lifetime moments can make it worse.

That's the conclusion drawn by several Canadian doctors who wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, describing how an iPod-listening jogger suffered additional injuries by wearing the device's earphones when lightning struck a nearby tree.

The bolt threw the 37-year-old man 8 feet, according to witnesses. When the victim was brought to Vancouver General Hospital, doctors found that along with second-degree burns on his chest and left leg, the man also suffered substantial burns in the area around his metal earphones. In addition, both his eardrums were ruptured, resulting in severe hearing loss, and his jaw was cracked.

Doctors have warned that cranking up the volume on an iPod can lead to hearing loss, but injuries due to a combination iPod and lightning are a rarity. People are seldom struck by lightning directly. Instead, it's more common for the electrical discharge to jump to a person from a nearby object, such as a tree. Because skin is highly resistant, lightning is often conducted over the outside of the body. But when sweat and metallic objects, are involved, the electrical charge can be directed inside the body.

In the case of the jogger, "the combination of sweat and metal earphones directed the current to, and through, the patient's head," the doctors said in the letter published Thursday. While lightning traveling around and through his body caused the burns, the jaw fracture was probably caused by muscle contractions.

So if you have to jog in a lightning storm, it's better to hum your favorite tunes.

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