Maybe Phones Aren’t Giving Us Horns

A widely reported study that connected horn-like growths in the back of young peoples’ skulls with bad posture and smartphones has received pointed criticism from other researchers. 

“Unfortunately, this study doesn’t hold water,” said John Hawks, a professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Bad Posture?

The original study, conducted by two Australians from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, suggested that young people were developing small bone spurs pointing downward from the back of their skulls due to pressure from bad posture. 

“Our findings raise a concern about the future musculoskeletal health of the young adult population and reinforce the need for prevention intervention through posture improvement education,” David Shahar and Mark Sayers wrote in their study, published at Scientific Reports

News of the study generated reactions ranging from the merely hyperbolic to the explicitly eschatological. But Hawks’ criticism would suggest that maybe — just maybe — the internet overreacted on this one. 

…or Bad Study?

Bone spurs on the back of the heads of Millennials may not portend anything, let alone the end times. Many of them may not even really exist. 

Hawkes wrote an essay spelling out his critique at Medium. Among a few issues he took with the Aussies’ work, he suggested that what Shahar and Sayers at times identified as bone spurs may just be “side views of the thickened area of the superior nuchal line” — in other words, “an illusion.” 

Still on Point

Shahar, meanwhile, told CNN that he stands by his work. 

“Our hypothesis, linking these degenerative changes with the use of modern technologies, provides a warning to the premature development of preventable musculoskeletal degenerative processes with the sustained inappropriate posture,” he said through email.

Not ‘Horns’

However, he did take issue with journalists using the word “horns” to describe “enthesophytes growing out of the occipital bone.” 

“They are not horns,” he said. “This is a term used by the media.”

Image by Pexels.

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