Two recent trauma cases in Tucson point to the “potential perils of peri-Pokémon perambulation,” say two surgeons at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
The incidents involving a Pokémon Go-playing driver and a woman injured when she swerved to avoid hitting a Pokémon pedestrian were published this week in Oxford Medical Case Reports by Dr. Bellal A. Joseph and Dr. David G. Armstrong.
Joseph said at least 10 incidents of Pokémon Go-related injuries have shown up at Banner-University Medical Center trauma center since the game became popular, including a player who was struck by lightning.
Augmented-reality games, along with texting while driving or biking, are “becoming the No. 1 cause for accidents, actually. It’s right up there with drunk driving,” Joseph said.
Armstrong, a Pokémon Go player himself, said he and Joseph were moved to write up the case reports when five patients were treated in the trauma center on the same day.
The 19-year-old male driver of the pickup truck told medical personnel that he was driving at about 40 mph while hunting Pokémon.
He found one, “attempted to ‘flick his Pokémon ball to capture the (aforementioned) Pokémon’ and lost control of the vehicle,” according to the case report.
The truck rolled, and three passengers in the truck bed were ejected. The driver was treated for minor brain bleeding and a lacerated liver. A passenger who had been pinned beneath the truck had head cuts and back pain. The two others thrown from the truck bed reported headaches and back pain that did not involve treatment in the trauma center.
In the second incident, a 58-year-old woman swerved to avoid hitting a pedestrian and crashed into a utility pole.
“Scene reports from bystanders and Emergency Medical Services indicated that the aforementioned pedestrian (uninjured) was engaged in a game of Pokémon Go and had wandered into the middle of the street to catch a Pokémon, thereby precipitating the car versus pole collision,” the case report said.
The driver had “multiple pelvic fractures that were treated non-operatively,” the case report said.
Armstrong and Joseph had fun titling the report: “Potential perils of peri-Pokémon perambulation: the dark reality of augmented reality?”
Despite the “kind of silly but provocative title,” the purpose of publishing the cases is serious, said Armstrong.
“The real question is ‘How do we deal with these rapidly evolving games and technologies constantly vying for our attention with our brains, which are evolving much more slowly?’ ”
Armstrong downloaded the Pokémon Go app on his phone so that he could play the game with his 20-year-old daughter Alexandria. He likes the fact that it encourages exercise. He is director of the UA’s Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance and exercise is a big component of his programs for diabetic patients.
“I’m in the business of getting people out and moving. If you don’t use it, you lose it. We just have to be able to do it safely.”
Joseph said the “Pokémon producers need to make the phone app more safe to use. Technology is great, but you need to be safe about it,” he said.