Using a PC to play games doesn't seem like something that could result in injury, except maybe a sore wrist, an aching back, or an occasional fracture to your patience. That doesn't appear to be the case, however: our computers are hurting us a lot more often than I would have guessed, and I've got the data to prove it.
I've been skimming through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which tracks "every emergency visit involving an injury associated with consumer products." It's searchable by code, and there are codes for nearly everything: ladders, toys, blenders, escalators, Christmas tree lights, mattresses, air conditioners, bread makers—even robots.
And, of course there's a code for computers, which includes computer equipment and electronic games. Here's what a look through the data from 2007-2016 shows us: ten years of computer-related emergency room visits, including direct quotes from the emergency room staff.
Hat tip to Deadspin who use this database to annually catalog more cringeworthy injuries.
We get hurt a lot by our PCs. Sometimes it's from trying to move them, from accidentally dropping them, or from working on them with a sharp knife (so, uh, don't work on them with a sharp knife). And sometimes it's from something as simple as pretending a PC's motherboard is really a surf board and standing on it while barefoot. Who hasn't done that from time to time?
The NEISS is filled with emergency room visits from people with strained backs, necks, and shoulders from lifting, moving, and carrying heavy PCs—and even just from bending over to plug one in. Here are some other injuries, including a couple of confusing ones:
- Fractured hand: 18-year-old male "punched computer"
- Lower leg contusion: 19-year-old male was kneeling while using a computer, "legs became weak and then someone fell on calf"
- Face bone injury: 42-year-old after falling while carrying computer
- Head laceration: 7-year-old male fell and hit head on computer
- Thumb laceration: 28-year-old male cut finger "on computer at girlfriend's house"
- Fractured toe: 25-year-old female, "a computer fell on it"
- Facial laceration: 31-year-old male "fell down stairs & hit face on computer he was holding"
- Lacerated finger: 33-year-old male "cut finger with a pocket knife working on a computer at home when knife slipped"
- Face laceration: 14-year-old male was "walking backwards" and fell, hitting face on computer equipment at school
- Toe laceration: 17-year-old male when a "computer fell from dresser"
- Wrist sprain: 47-year old male while running a virus scan, "got up to go to the bathroom" then leaned on his desk, "felt a pop in wrist"
- Ankle contusion: 2-year-old male when "computer fell out of wall" onto left ankle
- Shoulder pain: a 43-year-old "uses computer while in slumped position"
- Foot strain: 62-year-old "stood up from computer and foot was asleep"
- Closed head injury: 15-year-old female was "goofing around" with her brother and fell, hitting her head on "a computer stand and the telephone"
- Nasal fracture: 55-year-old female "fell into a computer hitting nose"
- Head laceration: 73-year-old male "tripped carrying computer, fell into china cabinet"
- Foot laceration: 4-year-old male "was at home "surfing" on broken computer circuit board on the floor" and cut his foot
Laptops, I've learned, are exceedingly dangerous bits of equipment, and pose a danger to more than just our laps. Our feet, especially, are victims of dropped laptops—and sometimes our heads are too. They tend to burn us occasionally as well, so don't fall asleep on one. In fact, maybe we should avoid them altogether.
- Toe laceration: 64-year-old male dropped a laptop on his left foot
- Facial contusion: after two teenagers were "swinging a laptop around" at school and one was hit in the face with it
- Foot pain: 12-year-old dropped a laptop on his foot
- Multiple rib fractures: 72-year-old male fell onto his laptop in his driveway
- Electric shock: 12-year-old shocked when unplugging his laptop
- Lower back pain: 50-year-old male after bending over to pick up his laptop
- Second-degree burn: 34-year old female after falling asleep with her hand on her laptop
- Shoulder strain: 66-year-old male after lifting a heavy laptop bag
- Toe contusion: after 11-month-old female pulled a laptop off a desk onto foot
- Foot contusion: 26-year-old female dropped laptop on foot
- Face pain: 45-year-old female "fell and hit face on laptop"
- Abdominal pain: 19-year-old man experience pain after resting his laptop on his abdomen
- Thermal burn: 33-year-old fell asleep with laptop charger on his arm and was burned
- Closed head injury: Laptop bag fell from a plane's overhead compartment onto 51-year-old female's head
Of course, videogames hurt us. They hurt us a lot, and in many different ways. I've omitted a lot of controller-related injuries, figuring they're mostly to do with consoles that use the controllers you swing around (or those thrown at others in anger). Don't worry: there's still plenty of game-related injuries to peruse.
- Testicular contusion: 31-year-old male "accidentally" kicked in right testicle by girlfriend when playing "interactive video game"
- Eye pain: 5-year-old from "playing video games too long"
- Leg laceration: 11-year-old was "running on a treadmill, while playing a video game, & fell, cutting his lower leg on the cup holder"
- Left thigh hypothesia: 15-year-old female experiencing numbness in thigh from "playing electronic video games for 2 days"
- Leg numbness: 31-year-old male after playing video games while sitting cross-legged
- Neck pain, muscle pains, acute De Quervain's tenosynovitis (thumb inflammation): 35-year-old male stating "I played video games all day yesterday"
- Head contusion: 15-year-old male playing a game, fell, struck head on floor
- Ulnar nerve compression: wrist numbness after 16-year-old male played "a lot of video games"
- Eye injury: 8-year-old "poked in eye playing video games"
- Lip laceration: 13-year-old male playing games with sister and they "hit heads"
- Knee sprain: 13-year-old twisted knee while "mimicking a move from a video game"
- Heart palpitations: 15-year-old male "playing Call of Duty video game at night"
- Concussion: 21-year-old male "got angry" while playing a game, threw back his head and hit it against a table
- Foreign body in ear: 10-year old was "playing on computer" when his tooth came out, he then "put tooth in ear"
- Headache: 12-year-old male was "playing games all evening and has a headache"
Cords, cables, and monitors
I had lots of plans for the holiday break, and wound up doing almost nothing except watching TV and movies and taking naps. The one thing I did do was organize the various cables and cords that were stretched across my floor like the snakes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I'm glad I did: I was bound to trip over one at some point and wind up in the database myself.
- Head contusion: 87-year-old male tripped over cords and hit head on wall
- Forearm contusion: 4-year-old male hit head on desk after tripping over cords
- Ankle sprain: 62-year-old female caught foot on computer cord and fell
- Knee sprain: 57-year-old female caught leg in "computer wire"
- Back pain: 56-year-old, from lifting monitor
- Lip laceration: 2-year-old female was watching a movie, pulled the monitor toward her, it fell and struck her lip
- Hand crush injury: 5-year-old female trying to catch a falling monitor
- Eye pain: 23-year-old male, computer "fell on head at home"
- Strained eyes: 8-year-old male "strained both eyes from too much computer time"
- Fractured finger: 20-year-old male's "hand was smashed" when monitor fell on it
Keyboards, mice, modems, and more
Even when dealing with seemingly harmless accessories, we are not safe from injury. That mouse is just waiting to hurt you. Your keyboard wants you dead. You may not think about your modem much, but it's thinking of you. Also: please don't swallow anything.
- Hand contusion: 13-year-old female after "a computer modem fell on hand"
- Facial contusion: 20-month-old fell from chair and pulled keyboard onto head
- Elbow pain: 9-year-old male from playing games with mouse and "clicking a lot"
- Facial abrasion: 23-year-old female "was struck with computer mouse holder when she stood up"
- Irritant exposure: 24-year-old with shortness of breath after inhaling corroded battery particles while removing batteries from wireless keyboard
- Wrist contusion: 49-year-old male became irate from computer difficulties and "slammed the keyboard"
- Scalp abrasion: 4-year-old male ran into corner of keyboard drawer
- Injested object: 7-year-old female playing with a USB drive on a keychain and swallowed it
In all seriousness, computers and monitors are pretty heavy, exposed cables are a tripping hazard, and little kids and older folks can easily get hurt by equipment falling on them. Let's be more careful in 2018. And never punch your PC. You'll just wind up hurting your hand.