Doctors warn of ‘selfie wrist injuries’

We’ve had gamer’s grip, Nintendinitis, and text neck. To that growing list of tech-related conditions we can now add the selfie wrist.

Doctors in the Department of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery at University College Hospital Galway treated four cases of “distal radius” (broken wrist) in a single week, each the result of taking a selfie.

All patients fractured the limb not holding the smartphone. This suggests that “selfie-takers value and are protective of their smartphone”, according to the doctors, writing in the June edition of the Irish Medical Journal.

The paper, titled The Selfie-Wrist — Selfie-Induced Trauma, presents four cases of selfie wrist across all age groups during the summer period.

The authors warn that proprioception, the concept of knowing where your body is in space, and spatial awareness are compromised while taking selfies as “attention is focused on a mobile device”.

“This can lead to trauma, resulting in hospitalisation.

“In our institution (UCH Galway), we have noted an increase in the past number of months of selfie-related trauma,” state the authors.

They compare this phenomenon “to the increase in paediatric fractures associated with trampolines and fitness computer game-related trauma documented over the past two decades”.

The cases highlighted in the journal include:

  • A 13-year-old girl on a trampoline who attempted to take a selfie while jumping. The smartphone was held in the left, non-dominant hand. As she was focusing on taking the photo, she collided with her friend who was also on the trampoline, fell, and suffered a fracture of the right distal radius and ulna. She was treated with manipulation under anaesthesia and cast for six weeks;
  • A 17-year-old female running along a seaside promenade fell while attempting to take a selfie running up steps. She placed her left hand out to protect her face and sustained a fracture to the distal radius. She was treated non-operatively in a cast for six weeks;
  • A 27-year-old female sports-player suffered a fractured left distal radius. Attempting to take a selfie with her left hand, with a group of her teammates on stairs, she fell down four steps and put her dominant right hand forward. She suffered a distal radius fracture;
  • A 40-year-old female was walking on uneven ground at a well-known tourist attraction. While attempting to take a selfie, she took two steps backwards and had a fall on rocks. She suffered a right distal radius fracture. She underwent Krischner wire fixation (K-wire).These K-wires were removed at 4 weeks.

The authors of the paper state that education about the hazards of taking selfies need to be implemented to combat the increase in trauma-related figures. 

They point out that the Internal Ministry of Russia recently published a ‘safe selfie guide’ to educate the public on taking selfies, instituted after a number of fatalities were attributed to taking a selfie, including a fall from a cliff.


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