Lightning strikes a Vancouver man jogging during a thunderstorm. The burns trace the path of his iPod headphones.
Here’s a safety alert. Jogging + iPod + thunderstorm = very bad idea. A letter published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reports that a 37-year-old iPod-listening jogger in Vancouver, British Columbia, suffered serious injuries when he ran by a tree as it was struck by lightning.
“Witnesses reported that he was thrown approximately 8 ft from the tree,” says the letter from the man’s doctors, Eric Heffernan, Peter Munk, and Luck J. Louis of the Vancouver General Hospital. The lightning caused severe burns and injuries that followed along the path of his iPod headphones. His jawbone broke in several places, and both his tympanic membranes — i.e., his eardrums — were “ruptured,” doctors wrote, leading to severe hearing loss.
They note that it isn’t clear if iPods increase the risk of being struck by lightning. They do seem to increase the damage. They note that “sweat and metallic objects in contact with the skin” can lead electric current inside the body; “in this case, the combination of sweat and metal earphones directed the current to, and through, the patient’s head.”
Read the NEJM letter.
Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. More Farhad Manjoo.
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