Study on Dog Walking Injuries


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There’s no doubt that walking dogs is healthy. This is so true that physicians have prescribed dogs to get heart patients to people stricken with agrophobia off the sofa and outdoors. Having said that, it turns out, there’s another side of the dog walking coin, as there’s an increased risk of injury as a result of dog walking.

A paper published by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Med Sci Sports Exerc called Epidemiology of Dog Walking-Related Injuries Among Adults Presenting to U.S. Emergency Departments, 2001-2020 indicated that in the 19 year study period an estimated 422,659 adults presented to U.S. emergency departments with injuries related to leash-dependent dog walking. Most patients were women (75 percent) and adults aged 40 to 64 years (47 percent), with a mean age of 53 years.

Patients commonly injured their upper extremity (51 percent) and were injured while falling when pulled or tripped by the leash (55 percent), which is  one of several reasons why I advocate banning retractable leashes.4

The idea for the study came from experiences in lead author Edward McFarland’s clinic. It may be no coincidence that McFarland, a professor of shoulder and elbow surgery and orthopedic surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, treated many patients with shoulder injuries resulting from dog walking.

Injuries also occur when dog walkers have the leash wrapped around their fingers or a wrist and the dog lunges .

The traumatic brain injuries identified in the study ranged from concussions to non-concussive internal head injuries such as brain contusions and brain bleeds.

Women and older adults were at an increased risk for more serious injuries, with those older than 65 being about 60 percent more likely to have a brain injury.

The number of injuries caused by dog walking more than quadrupled during the study period, with about 7,200 in 2001 to about 32,000 in 2020. The huge increase may be because there are simply many more dogs today compared to 2001. Also, during the pandemic many people were out far more often with their dog. With more opportunity, more injuries occurred.