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Can Cell Phones Cause Brain Injuries?

Cell phone use can cause brain injuries, and it does more often than you think. A 2019 study published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery determined that traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that are connected to cell phone use are on the rise.

20 Years of Data

The study used 20 years of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission to show a steady increase in injuries that were related to cell phone use.

Of the sample of 2,501 reported cases (76,043 estimated weighted national total) of cell phone injuries examined in the study, 18.4% were described as internal organ injuries. In most of those cases, the internal organ that was injured was the brain.

The cases that were used in this study happened between 1998 and 2017, and it was determined that cases of cell phone injuries rose sharply in 2007. So it began the year so many of us were using the first iPhones, the Motorola Razr2, and the Blackberry 8800, and it’s continuing to rise today.

Of the patients whose brain injuries were analyzed in the study, researchers determined the following:

  • Internal organ injury was the second most common type of cell phone-related injury reported, second only to lacerations.
  • Cell phone users aged 13 to 29 were more likely to be injured by being distracted by their phones.
  • Cell phone users who were younger than 13 years old were more likely to be injured by being hit or cut with the phone.
  • Patients between 50 and 64 years old were more likely to be injured by being hit or cut with the phone than those who were over the age of 65.

This study is a compelling example of why we shouldn’t text while we’re driving or walking. Distracted driving due to cell phone use causes nearly 390,000 accidents in the United States each year, and car accidents are one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injury.

The Cost of Traumatic Brain Injuries

According to injury lawyers who represent victims of traumatic brain injury, this type of injury is expensive because it typically involves months of rehabilitation therapy, and fewer than 15% of people with TBI are able to return to work within the first year.

You could end up with a lifetime of medical and caregiving expenses after a TBI, all because you used a cell phone while you were distracted, dropped a cell phone on your head, or had a cell phone thrown at you.

Cell Phones and Brain Tumors

TBIs may not be the only way cell phones can damage your brain. The World Health Organization has classified cell phones as a Class B carcinogen, which means they can potentially cause cancer in humans. Research has suggested that cell phone use can alter brain function and cause brain tumors if you hold the phone up to your ear while you’re using it. 

One recent study determined that if you talk with your cell phone held to your ear for 20 minutes a day every day for five years, your risk of developing cancer will increase by 300%. The same study determined that holding your cell phone to your ear for 50 minutes can alter your brain function.

If there is any lesson to take away from this study aside from making sure not to use your cell phone while you’re distracted, it’s that we should consider our relationship to our cell phones and whether it’s worth sacrificing our health and safety for.

You might want to limit your time on the phone or switch to a hands-free device, because there is still a long way to go regarding cell phone safety research.


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