MONDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Tasers, electroshock weapons used by many police departments as a non-lethal way to incapacitate suspects, are generally safe and cause only a very low rate of serious injuries, say U.S. researchers who reviewed almost 1,000 incidents involving the devices.
They found that 99.7 percent of people subjected to a Taser had mild injuries (such as scrapes and bruises) or no injuries at all. Three people (0.3 percent) suffered injuries that were severe enough to require hospitalization. Two of them suffered head injuries when they fell after being hit by the Taser. The third, admitted to hospital two days after arrest, had a medical problem with an uncertain link to the Taser. Two of the suspects died, but neither death was related to the Taser, autopsy reports indicated.
The study, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Justice, was to be presented Monday at the American College of Emergency Physicians' Research Forum in Seattle, Wash.
While popular with police departments, there continues to be debate about the safety of Tasers, which are meant to give police a non-lethal alternative to guns.
"This study is the first large, independent study of injuries associated with Tasers. It is the first injury epidemiology study to review every Taser deployment and to reliably assess the overall risk and severity of injuries in real world conditions," lead investigator Dr. William Bozeman, an emergency medicine specialist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a prepared statement.
"The injury rate is low, and most injuries appear to be minor. These results support the safety of the devices," Bozeman said.
There's more on injury prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCE: Wake Forest University, news release, Oct. 8, 2007