If you are a dog owner and you walk your dog using a leash, you might want to invest in some form of a crash helmet.
Because, according to a new study, traumatic brain injuries are the second most common injury among adults who walked leashed dogs.
The other two most common injuries suffered by people who walk dogs on a leash are finger fractures and shoulder sprains or strains.
“According to a 2021–2022 national pet ownership survey, nearly 53 percent of US households own at least one dog,” wrote Ridge Maxson, the study’s lead author. “Although dog walking is a common daily activity for many adults, few studies have characterized its injury burden. We saw a need for more comprehensive information about these kinds of incidents.”
The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers and published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that “an estimated 422,659 adults sought treatment in U.S. emergency rooms for injuries resulting from leash-dependent dog walking from 2001 to 2020.”
422 thousand people.
“Nearly half of all patients were adults age 40 to 64, and 75% of patients were women,” read a press release about the research. “Most injuries occurred due to falling after being pulled by, tangled in or tripped by the leash connected to a dog they were walking.”
Edward McFarland, M.D., the study’s senior author and director of the Division of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said, “Clinicians should be aware of these risks and convey them to patients, especially women and older adults. 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. Despite our findings, we also strongly encourage people to leash their dogs wherever it is legally required.”
“Dog walking is associated with a considerable and rising injury burden,” read the conclusion of the study. “Dog owners should be informed of this injury potential and advised on risk-reduction strategies.”
You’ve been warned.