My colleague Iana sent around this article the other day, in which was, she declared, “the most important healthcare chart published that day.” It is probably the most important healthcare chart you will see all year if you worry about your own physical safety.
The chart, and accompanying article, show the graphical outcome of an analysis performed on a database of over 244 million medical claims, which is owned by a company called Amino. Amino set out to document, “The most distinctive injury in each U.S. state, aka which injuries were disproportionately more or less common in each state, compared to the nation as whole.” The article points out that, “these are not the most common injuries in each state—that’s bruising or open wounds nearly everywhere—but rather, injuries that are disproportionately frequent.” Amino reports that 1 in 6 patients in their large database experience a reportable physical injury each year. Here we are worrying about chronic care management and we should be thinking about issuing plastic bubbles for all citizens to live in.
As for the distinctive injuries reported, one would figure that the list would have things like auto accidents, which are, in fact, the most distinctive injury in 5 states: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia and Tennessee. No surprise, particularly in California where there is seemingly at least one car for every man, woman, child, and software engineer. But many of the other states’ results were surprising, to say the least.
For instance, 5 states listed “suffocation” as the most distinctive injury, occurring more than is typical in the rest of the country. Those states were Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada and Wyoming. Granted, the article says that those could, possibly, be deaths from hypoxia, a condition related to low oxygen in high altitudes. But really? With Colorado having recently legalized marijuana, one could equally conjecture that the replacement of oxygen with exhaled weed might really be at fault. But we may never know, thereby worrying the hell out of Oregon and Washington State. Hopefully there isn’t a correlation to be found here with the thickness of dry cleaning bags or some unreported but particularly hands-on murder rampage. I wonder if Switzerland or Nepal have a similar suffocation scourge due to altitude (or dry cleaning bags), or if the U.S. is unique in its breathing challenges.
Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., Illinois and Louisiana claim “unspecified facial injury” as their special trend. Huh? I can imagine that D.C.’s problem is that it’s residents are too forcefully slamming their palms against their foreheads or heads into walls in response to the crazy unbelievable weirdness that is going on inside the capital post-election. Maybe they are trying to poke their own eyes out? A guess to be sure, yet plausible. But Louisiana? Could citizens of the Pelican State be drinking just a little too much during Mardi Gras and running face first into walls or dropping face first into hot gumbo? Hard to explain this one.
Indiana has the unusual distinction of being the only state where “struck by object” is the special scourge of their citizenry. How are these people settling arguments? There is either some strange poltergeist situation going on in the Hoosier State or these people need to learn to use their words when they get upset. Or else they need to be issued helmets to be worn at all times outdoors. Is this a holdover of the Bobby Knight era?
And speaking of helmets, Massachusetts is singularly distinctive for its exceedingly high number of concussions, which I think is easily explained by Patriots fans living out their weird Tom Brady fantasies while not wearing headgear. Tom, seriously, you need to talk to your Bay State friends and get this situation under control. A public service announcement may be in order.
New York’s problem is “unspecified knee injury.” Now that’s just lame for a state like New York with a big reputation to live up to. A knee injury probably occurs getting in and out of still-moving taxi cabs or slipping on the ice in Central Park, though I can imagine it also occurs while pointing said knee into the groin of another New Yorker who has offended by stepping in front of you into the last spot on the subway. This could be justified given that, according to the article, “unarmed fight or brawl” is also disproportionately common in New York, which accounts for more than 10% of medically documented fist fights in America. I am assuming that witness accounts to these fights in New York must all include somewhere a report that the last comment before contact was, “Hey, you talkin’ to me?” I would have expected middle finger injury, rather than knee, to be more common.
Similarly, New Jersey gets “sprained hand” (not middle finger, but close!) as it’s special problem, which I am guessing is a derivative of New York’s challenges given the porousness of the border. Undoubtedly these injuries occur most often when residents hear the phrase, “You’re from New Jersey? Which exit? Hahaha.” And then the sound of a backhand slap and “ow.”
Several states have insect bite as their distinctive injury challenge (Kansas, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia) but only one has animal bite: Missouri. The Show Me State may need renaming as the Bite Me State. Are rabid squirrels a big problem there? Faulty locks at the St. Louis zoo? Are their pets really ticked off about having to go out in the cold? What the hell Missouri? Don’t touch the wildlife.
Hawaii’s most common injury is near-drowning, which according to the article occurs 6.2 times more frequently than in other U.S. locales; but Hawaii’s distinctive injury is “scrape,” which I’m assuming happens when pina colada-drinking tourists are overserved and scrape their hands on the pineapple slice. I was hoping for something better in Hawaii, like shark bite or clocked by surfboard, but no. Hawaii may lose its near-drowning lead to California soon given the rain we are experiencing in the Golden State, where I think our new distinctive injury may become “struck by nail while building ark.”
Looking at the map of injuries state-by-state made me wonder what the most common U.S. injury of 2017 will be. In our new political age, might we expect an uptick in severe finger injuries for pointing blame at others? Clearly journalists will see an uptick in rear end injuries as the administration tells them “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” and then slams the door on them. But I’d like to think that the already common rotator cuff injury (special purview of Delaware and Oklahoma today) would grow in frequency due to excessive hugging of our fellow man. Let’s consider it something to strive for. And be careful out there.