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Dog Walking-Associated Injury Burden Is Considerable, Increasing

More than fourfold increase seen in annual incidence from 2001 to 2020, with 32,306 injuries in 2020

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 11, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Dog walking is associated with a considerable injury burden, according to a study published online April 14 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Ridge Maxson, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues describe the epidemiology of injuries related to leash-dependent dog walking among adults presenting to emergency departments in the United States from 2001 to 2020 using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database.

The researchers found that an estimated 422,659 adults presented to U.S. emergency departments with injuries relating to leash-dependent dog walking between 2001 and 2020. During this period, there was a more than fourfold increase in annual incidence (7,282 to 32,306). Seventy-five percent of patients were women, and most were aged 40 to 64 years (47 percent). Patients most often injured their upper extremity (51 percent) and were mainly injured while falling when pulled or tripped by the leash (55 percent). Finger fracture, traumatic brain injury, and shoulder sprain/strain were the three most common injuries (6.9, 5.6, and 5.1 percent, respectively). Among dog walkers, fracture risk was higher in adults aged 65 years and older and women (odds ratios, 2.1 and 1.5, respectively). Older dog walkers had an increased risk for traumatic brain injury (odds ratio, 1.6).

“Clinicians should be aware of these risks and convey them to patients, especially women and older adults,” a coauthor said in a statement. “We encourage clinicians to screen for pet ownership, assess fracture and fall risk, and discuss safe dog walking practices at regular health maintenance visits for these vulnerable groups.”

One author disclosed financial ties to Stryker Corporation.

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