Substance abuse and mental illness common among those injured, study says

April 19, 2017

WEDNESDAY, April 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- More than 50,000 Americans are treated each year for injuries inflicted by police, a new study says.

While deaths at the hands of police have garnered national attention, less focus has been paid to nonfatal injuries by U.S. law enforcement.

Nationwide, there were more than 355,000 emergency department visits for injuries caused by police between 2006 and 2012, according to researchers from New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

The number of injured each year -- about 51,000 -- remained stable over the seven-year period, the researchers found.

"While it is impossible to classify how many of these injuries are avoidable, these data can serve as a baseline to evaluate the outcomes of national and regional efforts to reduce law enforcement-related injury," Dr. Elinore Kaufman and colleagues said in the study.

Substance abuse and mental illness were common in patients injured by police, the researchers said.

The findings were published online April 19 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

Of the emergency department visits identified in the study, 0.3 percent (1,202) ended in death, Kaufman's team said in a journal news release.

Analyzing data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, the researchers also found that:

  • More than 8 out of 10 patients were men. Patients' average age was 32, most lived in low-income areas, and 81 percent lived in cities.
  • Injuries caused by police were more common in the South and West and less common in the Northeast and Midwest.
  • Most of the police-caused injuries resulted from being struck. Gunshot and stab wounds accounted for less than 7 percent of the injuries. Most of the injuries were minor.

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians explains what to do in a medical emergency.

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