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Posted on 07-11-2016

"Pokemon Go" Causing Baltimore Auto Accidents

As a Baltimore Chiropractor that spends the majority of my time treating Baltimore Auto Accident injuries, I thought that by 8 years of clinical practice and nearly four thousand patients, I had seen it all. I can now say that I am seeing things I never would have imagined: video game induced auto accident injuries in Baltimore.

By now we all know what it is. Pokemon, the digital monsters from my childhood, are back with a vengeance taking over our mobile phones and tablets. Seemingly everyone with a mobile internet connection is staring down at their devices as they pursue a digital scavenger hunt in an effort to "collect them all." Although it sounds cute and innocent, it has been leading to some unforeseeable problems. Most notably, injuries to players are starting to pile up at an alarming rate as participants are so immersed in the virtual game that they become unaware of their surroundings and then either injure themselves or others while playing.

The game uses "augmented reality" to transpose images of these cartoon monsters into every day life. In fact, where I live in Baltimore is right next to a PokeStop so I find myself filling up on pokeballs periodically to help me in my pursuit to "catch them all." The game is meant to be fun and as a way for casual users to get together, walk, exercise, and explore their surroundings. However, the more aggressive players are pulling out all the stops in an effort to collect elusive pokemon.

In Massachusetts, a man caused a major pile up (multiple car accidents) while attempting to throw PokeBalls to catch a pokemon. Several people had injuries as a result of the crash. The story can be read here.

There are other accounts of players using skateboards to "walk" around their communities faster in order to capture more digital monsters. This has lead to skateboard injuries such as scraped knees, twisted ankles, and even small bone breaks in feet.

To their credit, the makers of the game do warn players to be aware of their surroundings all the time and not to forget that they are, in fact, walking through the real world when they play. But that does not seem to be stopping players from putting themselves and others in harms way in an effort to catch the most digital monsters.

By no means am I suggesting that the game should be removed from the apple store or from Google play. I just think we all need to be more aware of our surroundings. My suspicion is that this will lead to an epidemic of Baltimore car accidents as people attempt to use their cars to travel greater distances in an attempt to catch pokemon.

While I am not suggesting that it is a smart idea to "pokemon and drive", I do think it is a wise idea to designate a driver if you must play pokemon in a car. Similar to designating a driver for an evening out with alcohol, and similar to how teenagers should be designating a "texter" to communicate on behalf of a driver, I think it is time we consider having a designated "pokemon player" so that any given driver can keep their attention to the road while another car occupant can focus on "catching them all."

If you, or someone you know, has suffered a Baltimore auto accident injury as a result of Pokemon Go, please contact Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic at (443) 842-5500. We would be happy to help!

Dr. Gulitz

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