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Home > Twalking Injuries – What are They?

Twalking Injuries – What are They?

Boyd W. Haynes III, MD

What is Twalking?

Twalking, the act of texting while walking, has become increasingly prevalent in our world. Everyone does it, right? While seemingly harmless, this behavior causes people to injure themselves often because, while texting and walking, they become unaware of their surroundings and walk into traffic, other people, step off curbs, into holes, onto hazardous objects…the list goes on and on.  

According to a recent report by Fox News, Yahoo, and other news outlets, twalking has become one of the leading causes of injury in the United States and has seen a 50% increase since 2012.  Although I can’t believe I have to explain why this behavior is dangerous, the statistics don’t lie about how many of us make this a common practice. So, let’s delve into twalking injuries, exploring the risks associated, preventive measures, and what to do if you experience a twalking injury.

Why Do We Twalk?

We twalk for the same reason we text while driving – because we think we can effectively multitask while overcoming the risks inherent in the activity.  However, engaging in twalking diverts our attention from the immediate environment, leading to a higher likelihood of collisions with objects, people, or vehicles. Studies have indicated that twalkers tend to deviate from straight paths, displaying erratic movements that increase the risk of tripping, falling, or stepping into hazardous spaces. Additionally, prolonged periods of looking down at a device can strain the neck and upper back, leading to musculoskeletal issues.

Twalking Injury Management and Prevention Strategies

Sometimes, simply being aware of the dangers surrounding twalking can help us alter our behavior and stop walking while texting. However, education and awareness campaigns only go so far, because texting while driving is still a huge issue, even though there has been a gigantic educational campaign on its dangers. Technological interventions, such as apps that limit device functionalities while in motion or alert users to potential dangers, also could hold promise in curbing twalking-related incidents but raise concerns about privacy and personal liberty. If I had a dollar for every time I advised a patient not to do something for their own good AND they followed that advice….

What if You’re Injured While Twalking?

If you fall while twalking and luck is on your side, the only injury you may suffer is to your pride. So, get up, brush yourself off and learn a valuable lesson!   

A few unfortunate souls have found themselves stepping in front of a bus or having a fall from significant heights resulting in a one way trip to the funeral home. For others, addressing more commonly reported twalking injuries, such as cuts, abrasions, sprains, fractures, or concussions, could require prompt medical attention from your PCP, Urgent Care Center, or ER.

Treating Musculoskeletal Issues Caused by Twalking

I, or my colleagues at OSC, may get involved in your care for sprains, strains, fractures, or other musculoskeletal issues that you may have experienced during your twalking injury. Please expect us to take x-rays and ask a lot of questions about your twalking incident, so come prepared with a good sense of humor and be ready to talk about how your accident occurred. The good news is that most injuries from twalking will not require surgical invention nor hospitalization but can be treated conservatively and on an outpatient basis. Usually, I will recommend bracing, splinting, or casting for sprains, strains and fractures that are uncomplicated, with activity modification, NSAIDS for pain, ice intermittently for the first 24-48 hours and elevation to help with the swelling, and physical therapy down the line, depending on the level of injury.

For some severe sprains and strains (tendon or ligament tears) and fractures, outpatient surgery will be required for a good outcome and full recovery. These surgeries are completed in an ambulatory surgery setting where the patient is sent home to recover in the comfort of their own home an hour or two after surgery is completed. The recovery protocols tend to be a bit lengthier than the non-surgical cases, but progress pretty much along the same lines, with more lengthy and extensive physical therapy.

Twalking injuries represent a growing concern in today’s digitally connected world and in my practice.  My advice is – don’t twalk.  But if you do happen to fall and injure yourself while looking at your phone, you know who to call for treatment. 

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