Virtual Reality Consumer Product Injuries: An analysis of national emergency department data

Published:January 17, 2023DOI:



      The growing popularity of virtual reality devices and increasingly widespread distribution of VR products into the home exposes users to risk of bodily harm. Safety features are integrated into the devices themselves, but the burden of cautious use rests upon the end user. The purpose of this study is to quantify and describe the array of injuries and demographics effected by the burgeoning VR industry to inform and encourage mitigation strategies.


      The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) data was used to examine a nationwide sample of emergency department records from 2013 – 2021. Inverse probability sample weights for cases were applied to arrive at national estimates. NEISS data included consumer product injuries, patient age, sex, race and ethnicity, drug and alcohol involvement, diagnoses, injury descriptions, and emergency department disposition.


      The first VR-related injury was reported in the NEISS data in 2017, and injuries were estimated to number 125. Incidents of VR-related injuries amplified as increased VR units sold, and by 2021, there was a 352% increase in VR injuries totaling a weighted estimate of 1,336 ED visits. The most common VR-related injury diagnosis is fracture (30.3%), followed by laceration (18.6%), contusion (13.9%), other (11.8%), and strain / sprain (10.0%). VR-related injuries involve the hand (12.1%), face (11.5%), finger (10.6%), and knee (9.0%), head (7.0%) and upper trunk (7.0%). Patients age 0-5 most commonly experienced injuries to the face (62.3%). Injuries in patients 6-18 were mostly to the hand (22.3%) and face (12.8%). Patients 19-54 experienced primarily injuries to the knee (15.3%), finger (13.5%), and wrist (13.3%). Patients aged 55 and older disproportionately experienced injuries in the upper trunk (49.1%) and upper arm (25.2%).


      This is the first study to describe the incidence, demographics and characteristics of injuries from VR device use. Sales of home VR units continue to increase annually and the rapid increase in VR consumer injuries is being managed by emergency departments across the country. An understanding of these injuries will inform VR manufacturers, application developers, and users to promote safe product development and operation.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Injury
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


      1. IDC. AR/VR Headset Shipments Grew Dramatically in 2021, Thanks Largely to Meta's Strong Quest 2 Volumes, with Growth Forecast to Continue, According to IDC. In: Ubrani J, editor. 2022.

      2. Consumer Product Safety Commission. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

      3. NEISS. Explanation Of NEISS Estimates Obtained Through The CPSC Web-site.

      4. U.S. Census Bureau. Data and Maps.

        • Warner N
        • Teo JT.
        Neurological injury from virtual reality mishap.
        BMJ Case Rep. 2021; : 14
        • Jones-Dellaportas MJ
        • Keitley JA
        • Donald Bullough R
        • Graham B
        Major traumatic injury sustained during use of a virtual reality (VR) headset.
        Trauma, 2022
      5. Carmody T. Why 'Gorilla Arm Syndrome' rules out multitouch notebook displays. Wired.

        • Kyriakou G
        • Glentis A.
        Skin in the game: Video-game-related cutaneous pathologies in adolescents.
        Int J Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2021; 8: 68-75
        • Kim YY
        • Kim HJ
        • Kim EN
        • Ko HD
        • Kim HT.
        Characteristic changes in the physiological components of cybersickness.
        Psychophysiology. 2005; 0050826083901001
      6. Needleman SE. VR to the ER: Metaverse early adopters prove accident-prone. Wall Street Journal.

      7. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Treye Thomas, Steve Harsanyi, and other CPSC staff will meet in a standard technical panel (STP) conference call for UL 8400 (Proposed First Edition of the Standard for Safety for Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Technology Equipment).