The Many Ridiculous Ways We End Up In The ER, Graphed

If at all possible, stay away from the stairs … and the floors.

The Many Ridiculous Ways We End Up In The ER, Graphed
Cover Photo: Flickr user Tony Webster

Injury can happen at any time. It might be from a loose gutter, or a fold in the rug, but something is gunning for our otherwise perfect health that we take for granted every waking moment of the day. And the culprit is probably waiting for us at home right now.


At least, that’s the impression you’ll get from the visualization Why People Visit The Emergency Room, by FlowingData’s Nathan Yau. With data sourced from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it’s an explorable snapshot of the 13.8 million ER visits from 2014 that were caused by consumer goods, or their related activities (like sports). Yau edited the data down to the top 250 most injury inducing activities, broken down into a multi-line Voronoi diagram, which allows you to compare the damage item by item, month by month.

See the full graphic hereFlowingData

The top two offenders are frighteningly unavoidable: stairs and flooring. From there, you’ll read predictable stories in the lines. Football injuries are, as you might expect, fall seasonal, just as no one gets hurt sledding or skiing in the summer, and beach chair injuries peak in June (assumably due to pasty white, inexperienced beach goers pulling them out for the first time all year). It’s amazing to see how much the play of summer and winter, and inside and outside life, affect our injuries.

Oddly, however, it appears that many injuries drop to their lowest points in February: chairs, desks, ladders, nails, toys, and toilets, to name a few. Given that so many of these injuries don’t seem to be seasonal problems by nature, it leads to the sorts of questions these graphics are meant to incite: Do people just not go to the doctor in February? Are they too poor from Christmas? Are they too sick of the cold weather to seek professional medical attention? Are they hibernating? What’s going on?

I’m not sure. But if anything happens to me, please tell the authorities: I don’t like how my carpet is looking at me.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.