Cell Phone Horns?

Posted by on Jul 25, 2019 in Current Events

From Bigfoot to the criminal with the hook, you’ve no doubt heard a few urban legends. But what happens when the general public starts to believe that a certain urban legend is true? Recently, a story about some exotic health dangers associated with cell phone use grabbed headlines . . . though it later was revealed that this story may not be entirely true. Here, btw takes a closer look.

Side view of a normal skull with colored X-ray
Can cell phone usage really affect your anatomy? Credit: ©Science Photo Library/Alamy Stock Photo

Cell Phone Horns?

Last month, a story hit the news that scared a lot of people. It described a certain deformity that can occur in young peoples’ skulls when they spend too much time looking down at their cell phones. Specifically, an Australian study claimed that teens and young adults who often have their heads bent over their phones develop bone spurs at the back of their skull, just above the neck, that resemble horns, due to the weight of their heads being thrust unnaturally forward.

The findings were based on 218 X-rays taken in Queensland, Australia, of young peoples’ heads. The bony protrusions, called enthesophytes, were observed in 41 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 30. While the bone spurs themselves can’t hurt you, they form as the result of poor posture that could have long-term detrimental effects on your health. The good news? If you lay off of your cell phone use, the condition should improve on its own over time.

At Second Glance….

So should you panic? Throw away your smartphone? Not yet. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that one of the lead researchers involved in the study was David Shahar, a chiropractor who also owns an online store selling products to improve posture. Shahar initially claimed to have no conflict of interest when the story was published, because he hadn’t recommended any particular course of treatment for the problem, nor had he advocated for his own products as a solution. But the editors of the journal where the study was published disagree. They say that Shahar could potentially stand to sell products–and make money–off of the findings of his study.

Aside from Shahar’s possible conflict of interest, another problem with the study presented itself after it was published. Though the study’s authors claim a link between excessive cell phone usage and the horn-like bone spurs, at no point in their research did they measure how much time the young adults actually spent on their phones. Therefore, it’s impossible to assume that cell phone use has any direct effect on possible skeletal deformities.

What To Believe?

Other scientists are quick to point out that just because a researcher could benefit financially from his or her findings doesn’t mean that the research itself doesn’t have merit. In fact, the overuse of modern technology, especially cell phones, has led to all kinds of physiological changes in our body, from posture problems to attention disorders to “texting thumb.”

Though the specific methods involved in this particular study may be flawed, scientists are quick to remind us that cell phones have only been around for about a decade, and because of this, not a lot is known about the long-term health effects associated with their everyday use. They urge all people, especially young adults, to be moderate with their cell phone usage–even if texting your friends probably won’t give you horns.

What Do You Think? Based on what you’ve read in this article and heard on the news, are you concerned about the physical effects that excessive cell phone usage could have on your health? Explain.