Walking your dog may help you reach your exercise goals, but it could also increase your risk of injury.
“In the past couple years, we're seeing exponential increase in people falling while walking their dogs,” said Dr. Mark Cohen, an orthopedic surgeon at RUSH Hospital in Chicago.
Dog walking injuries are common, especially broken wrists, elbows and even hips.
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“We frequently see these dog walking related injuries in the emergency room," said Dr. John Torres, NBC News medical correspondent and emergency room physician. "They usually either involve them getting tangled in the leash or trying to avoid stepping on their dog and usually result in fractures to the wrist and forearm. “But it’s not unusual to see someone with a hip fracture from falling during a dog walk which unfortunately can be a life-altering injury.”
People most at risk are women over the age of 65, according a University of Pennsylvania Medicine study published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery. The study looked at government data on emergency room visits and found hip fractures were the most common injury associated with dog walking, followed by wrist and upper arm fractures. The numbers nationwide jumped from almost 1,700 in 2004 to about 4,400 in 2017.
Almost 80 percent of the patients were women, who tend to have less dense bones than men. The rise in injuries is due to increased pet ownership and older people being more active.
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Injuries typically happen when a dog pulls on a leash and walkers lose their balance.
At the same time, many people say walking their dogs have helped with weight loss, and walking can help save your life.
How to walk the dog safely
- Don’t wrap the leash around your hand or wrist .
- Use a retractable leash.
- Take your dog to obedience school.
- Pay attention. Don't text and walk.
“You have to pay attention, you can’t be on your cell phone. You have to be careful especially if there’s snow or ice and watch where you’re walking.” Cohen told NBC News. “You don’t perceive danger or fear while walk your dog. You have to be cognizant of the risk and pay attention.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report