According to a study released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the number of Americans who went to the ED with severe product-related injuries remained relatively flat from 2019 to 2020—but how Americans got hurt changed significantly after the pandemic hit.
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How Americans hurt themselves in 2020
For the study, CPSC compared data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) from between March and September 2019 with NEISS data from March through September 2020.
The study found that, between March and September 2020, ED visits for minor product-related injuries—when a patient left without being seen or was treated and then released—fell 27% when compared with the same period in 2019. In comparison, ED visits for severe product-related injuries—ones that resulted in hospitalization, transfer, or a hold for observation—dropped just 1%, a trend that Ik-Whan Kwon, emeritus professor and founder of a consumer product safety program at Saint Louis University, said wasn't surprising.
"That's what we anticipated would happen," Kwon said. "But there were notable shifts in the kinds of activities where the injuries occurred."
Specifically, CPSC found that both severe and minor injuries related to fireworks and flares rose 56% in 2020 compared with 2019—from 8,818 to 13,768, the largest overall increase of any injury type. That was followed by severe and minor injuries related to skateboards, scooters, and hoverboards, which rose 39%. (That said, the absolute numbers of each of these types of injuries differ, so the percentage increases may not be statistically significant when compared.)
Meanwhile, severe and minor injuries related to track and field sports equipment dropped 79%, from 20,512 in March to September 2019 to 4,208 in the same span in 2020. The number of injuries related to snowmobiles dropped similarly. Those two injury types tied for the biggest drop. In fact, injuries related to sports made up eight of the top 10 biggest injury type decreases in 2020.
When grouped by severity of injury, minor injuries related to sports still accounted for most of the top 10 decreases in minor types of injuries.
Meanwhile, severe injuries related to fireworks and flares still topped the list of biggest increases when grouped by severity, with those injuries increasing by 193%, from 1,115 to 3,273. Severe injuries related to power home tools, excluding saws, more than doubled, and severe injuries related to cleaning agents increased by 84%.
(Frankel, Washington Post, 3/4; Consumer Product Safety Commission study, 1/11).