Harry Potter Keeps Kids Safe

ByABC News
December 22, 2005, 12:53 PM

Dec. 22, 2005 — -- In JK Rowling's world of wizards, witchcraft and goblins, a world that involves flying on broomsticks and where you can learn how to make potions lies a mystical spell. According to a new study, the books that teach about magic are magic.

Researchers from the British Medical Journal say the boy wizard can cast a spell on children, and as a result they're protected from accidental injuries.

It all began when consultant Keith Willett and trauma surgeon Stephan Gwilym were working a weekend shift at a hospital in Oxford. They noticed how quiet the ward was that summer. There was no flurry of injuries coming into their care. Willett described how his own kids couldn't wait to get their hands on a copy of the new Harry Potter book so they lined up outside a bookshop at 6 a.m. The two doctors starting speculating about whether the latest installment in the magical series was the reason kids weren't getting injured.

They decided to investigate the mystery by looking at the impact the books had when they were released. They studied the number of 7- to 15-year-olds admitted to the emergency ward over a three-year period on two significant days -- days when a Harry Potter book was released.

"Harry Potter books seem to protect children from traumatic injuries," Gwilym said. "Fashionable or 'craze' activities have previously undoubtedly contributed to the 2 million children who attend emergency departments with traumatic injuries each year."

The statistics are staggering. For those June and July weekends that did not have a new Harry Potter book out, an average of more than 67 percent of kids were admitted to a hospital. When a book was released, only 36 percent or 37 percent had traumatic injuries.

Mothers will be happy to hear that the majority of kids opted to stay home and curl up with the new book rather than create chaos outdoors, preferring to read about Quidditch, the magical sport, rather than participating in an outdoor activity.

But is it possible that in this day and age, in a generation of PlayStations and video games that a book can have such a drastic effect on a kid's health?

Gwilym seems to think it works: "It may be hypothesized 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."

The only downside to this hypothesis is turning active kids into bookworms. Potential problems could include "an unpredictable increase in childhood obesity, rickets, and loss of cardiovascular fitness," he said.