Christmas in America tends to involve a lot of shopping, decorating, gift-giving, cooking and celebration.
It also involved at least 487 injuries last year, ranging from 20-foot ladder falls to butt bone fractures, according to a database maintained by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, whose mission is to prevent such injuries.
Many injuries pertain to things that are not so surprising: getting hurt by a sharp or bulky decoration, stepping on broken ornaments, lifting things that are too heavy, boxes of holiday goods falling out of closets onto people. If you've watched any National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation movies, you've seen most of the clumsy anecdotes that fill up the Commission's giant spreadsheet.
Nonetheless, I spent a few hours today scrolling through reams of holiday injuries, after finding the database through Jeremy Singer-Vine's newsletter, Data Is Plural, which always has some cool stuff to look at for data geeks. Singer-Vine cited one injury in which a 71-year-old woman fractured her hip, after she became dizzy and fell while taking down her Christmas tree. I wanted to know more. Do a lot of elderly people attempt to take down their own Christmas trees? Were there any weird injuries in there?
In terms of age, there are a lot of little children getting hurt, often by one of three things: eating decorations, sticking Christmas lights into their noses or pulling Christmas stockings off of mantels and getting hit in the head with metal hangers. Altogether, there were 83 toddler injuries. There were also quite a few elderly Americans getting hurt while hanging lights or tripping over decorations on the floor: 72 people age 65 or over were Christmas-injured last year.
But the largest group of Christmas injuries last year pertained to middle-aged people doing Clark Griswold-esque things. The Commission described 131 incidents in which Americans age 45 to 64 got hurt, many of them like the 52-year-old man who suffered rib and foot fractures, as well as shoulder pain, after falling eight-to-10 feet while hanging Christmas lights, or the 42-year-old woman who reported she got "zepped" while trying to plug in lights. For what it's worth, the split between male and female injuries was about even.
There were plenty of odd injuries too, five of which were explicitly related to holiday drinking. Here are the weirdest Christmas injuries in 2014 I found in the database:
- An 86-year-old man who developed carpal tunnel syndrome after writing out too many Christmas cards.
- A 42-year-old woman who reported a foot injury after "doing a lot of Christmas shopping" in sandals that lacked adequate arch support.
- A 37-year-old man who developed neck pain after "a long gift-wrapping session."
- A 13-year-old who complained of foot pain after "wearing new shoes that she got for Christmas."
- A 26-year-old man who danced so much at a Christmas party he developed "severe left ankle and knee pain."
- A 37-year-old man who suffered pain after he "got angry on Christmas Eve and kicked [a] picnic table."
- A 49-year-old woman who suffered a bone fracture after falling on her butt while hanging Christmas lights.
- An 88-year-old woman who had planned to relax in her recliner, but then "Christmas music came on & [she] started to wiggle her hips to dance & fell."
- A 50-year-old man who blamed "cheap xmas lights" for burns he suffered during a fire.
- A 4-year-old girl who placed a "jingle bell" in her vagina.
- A 17-year-old girl suffered a vaginal contusion after she "tripped over a storage tub and landed on a metal reindeer."
- A 55-year-old woman who suffered a head contusion after a Christmas tree fell…on her head…in May.
I oversee Fusion's money section and have spent most of my time as a journalist writing about banks and finance. I live in Brooklyn with my partner Geoffrey & our two dogs, Captain & Tallulah. Favs: leopard print, Diet Coke, gummy candy, Ireland.