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Harry Potter protects children from injury

Harry Potter casts a spell on accident prone children.

Harry Potter books seem to protect children from traumatic injuries, according to a study in this week's BMJ.

Injuries caused by "craze" activities such as inline skating and microscooters have previously been reported. One modern craze is the Harry Potter series of books and films. Given the lack of horizontal velocity, height, wheels, or sharp edges associated with this particular craze, researchers at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford investigated the impact of these books on children's traumatic injuries during the peak of their use.

They reviewed all children aged 7-15 who attended their emergency department with musculoskeletal injuries over the summer weekends of 2003-5. The launch dates of the two most recent Harry Potter books (The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince) were Saturday 21 June 2003 and Saturday 16 July 2005. They compared the numbers of admissions for these weekends (intervention weekends) with those for summer weekends in previous years (control weekends).

The average attendance rate during the control weekends was 67, while for the two intervention weekends, the attendance rates were 36 and 37. At no other point during the three year surveillance period was attendance that low. MetOffice data obtained for each of the weekends suggested no confounding effect of weather conditions.

"We observed a significant fall in the numbers of attendees to the emergency department on the weekends that the two most recent Harry Potter books were released," say the authors.

Both these weekends were in mid-summer with good weather, suggesting that there is a place for a committee of safety conscious, talented writers who could produce high quality books for the purpose of injury prevention.

Potential problems with this project would include an unpredictable increase in childhood obesity, rickets, and loss of cardiovascular fitness, they conclude.

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