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Safe selfies

Tips for staying injury-free


Photo: wundervisuals/iStockphoto

A cool self-portrait can get a lot of likes on social media. Taking one in an uncommon or unusual location, though, has played a part in an increase of serious injuries – and deaths.

“No photo is worth the trauma of going through an injury,” said Natasha Trentacosta, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

We’ve got five tips for taking a safe selfie.

1. Keep your eyes up, not down

“If you are going to take a picture,” Trentacosta said, “don’t start moving without looking at where you’re headed and what’s around you.”

Simply put, keep your eyes on your surroundings. Also:

  • Don’t take selfies when crossing the street or operating vehicles.
  • Be mindful of surroundings near bodies of water and pools.
  • Steer clear of ledges, cliffs, stairs and drop-offs.
  • Don’t pose with wildlife.

2. Talk with your teen

For young people, having a large social media following or impressing friends is a form of social currency, says Emily Mulder, program director at the Family Online Safety Institute in Washington.

Mulder encourages open communication. Ask your kids about their friends and plans as a way to remind them about not taking risks for social media’s sake.

“Kids don’t distinguish between their offline life and their online life the way that adults do,” Mulder said, “so it’s just as important to have that conversation with them as it is to have any other type of safety conversation.”

3. Don’t trespass on train tracks

Never pose on or near train tracks or a moving or idling train.

Every three hours, a person or vehicle is struck by a train, according to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization committed to preventing collisions, injuries and deaths on and around railroad tracks. And besides being unsafe, walking on or beside tracks is illegal and considered trespassing.

4. Respect park rules

Breathtaking views and iconic sights in our national and state parks can tempt selfie-seekers to take ill-advised risks. The National Park Service asks visitors to:

  • Stick to trails and boardwalks.
  • Stay on the safe side of barriers and safety railings.
  • Follow park rules and regulations on how far away to stay from wildlife. “If you want to take a picture of the animals, use a zoom lens on your camera,” the NPS says. “If you are close enough to take a selfie, you are way too close.”

5. Stay away from mines

Abandoned mine shafts may attract the adventurous, but they can collapse unexpectedly – and be hundreds of feet deep, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration warns. Shafts also can be unprotected or hidden by vegetation. Learn more about the dangers through the agency’s Stay Out – Stay Alive campaign at msha.gov/sosa.

The bottom line? Keep safety in mind.

A common selfie injury

You’ve probably heard of tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow. But “selfie wrist”?

Yes, it exists. It’s a type of carpal tunnel syndrome that can result from frequent wrist flexing while taking selfies.

Doctors “do hear a lot of chatter” about overuse injuries, said Natasha Trentacosta, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

To avoid selfie wrist, Trentacosta recommends taking sporadic breaks from selfies, asking a friend to take a photo or using a selfie stick.

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