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Pokémon Go adding to distracted walking, risk of injuries, expert says

The mobile app Pokémon Go is currently the top downloaded free app in both Apple and Android stores. But using it while walking can lead to injuries.
The mobile app Pokémon Go is currently the top downloaded free app in both Apple and Android stores. But using it while walking can lead to injuries.
Ruby Wallau/NPR

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The craze for the game Pokémon Go is sending millions of users wandering out into the streets in search of the virtual monsters, but the practice carries risks for pedestrians.

Users have reported being mugged and carjacked, among them two who were playing the game in a park in Antelope, KCRA reported. In another case, police said one victim was stabbed by a group of men in Anaheim's Schweitzer Park while absorbed by the game, according to NBC4

But Dr. Claudette Lajam of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons said users are probably more likely to injure themselves due to distracted walking.

"This thing is encouraging you to run and encouraging you to walk while you’re looking at the phone. So they’re definitely going to be more distracted and more likely to miss something that might be a danger," she said.

Lajam said she has seen an increase in patients tripping, falling and running into objects like poles while walking with cell phones. Studies have shown the rate of injury among pedestrians using phones has doubled over the last decade. One published in the journal Gait & Posture documents how multi-tasking on cell phones while walking causes cognitive distraction and unsafe behavior. 

Teens and young adults are the most likely to be injured while walking and using the phone.

The makers of the game are releasing a wrist strap, The Pokémon Go Plus device, which will vibrate so users won’t have to watch their phone to capture monsters.

Meantime, a word to the wise: be careful where you're going.