iPods Download Lightning?

An iPod won’t attract lightning, but it will make your injuries worse if you are struck by it, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. A 35 year-old man was brought into the emergency room after having been struck by lightning that had jumped to his body after striking a tree, a phenomenon known as “side flash.”

His jaw was broken and both ear drums punctured. He suffered burns along both sides of his neck “corresponding to the positions of his earphones at the time of the lightning strike.” He also suffered a rare injury to the bones inside his ears that lead the doctors to conclude that the “the combination of sweat and metal earphones directed the current to, and through, the patient’s head.” Lovely.

So if you’re jogging and it looks stormy, you might want to consider taking your iPod off or “dislocation of the incudomalleolar joint” could happen to you.

Thunderstorms and iPods — Not a Good iDea [New England Journal of Medicine]


Edit Your Comment

  1. DashTheHand says:

    Because the only thing that people listen to music with headphones on are iPods.

  2. B says:

    Or, you might just want to go inside. Getting stuck by lightning hurts even without the extra injuries.

  3. joe6486 says:

    I’m not sure that extra injuries could be attributed to the ipod and burns from the wiring. It’s very possible that the wiring shunted current away from his head and heart, allowing him to survive.

    Sure, it may have caused burns he wouldn’t have had otherwise, but it’s very possible that it also saved his life.

  4. mopar_man says:

    You know, if you decide that going for a jog during a thunderstorm is a good idea, I hope you DO get hit by lightning.

  5. banned says:

    I’m glad I don’t understand that medical jargon because I’m sure its worse than it sounds.

  6. Charybdis says:

    @DashTheHand: Yes, because this is all Apple’s fault. This never occured in the past, or at least so our press would have you believe.

  7. kastickboy says:

    age 35 or 37?

    whats crazy is that he didn’t break his jaw from blunt trauma, but from muscle contractions… uhg, makes me shudder thinking my jaw would crack/break instead of my teeth…

    I stick to rowing, on a machine, indoors.


  8. The Bigger Unit says:

    @Joe6486: Or the wiring connected to his skull concentrated the blast to his ears and brain. If given the choice, I’ll take no wiring leading to my ears in a lightning storm, thanks.

    Anyway, the guy should just jog with a golf club in the rain and lightning next time. Maybe he can make those “Darwin Award” books.

  9. KIRZEN2007 says:

    Happened here in the Vancouver area if I recall. Lightning here isn’t really all that frequent an occurence, and its always possible that he was heading back home when he got hit. If I recall from the new report, it was a really strange scenario.

    Lightning hits tree.
    Lighting goes down tree.
    Sideflash to iPod.
    -Up- earbud cord to head.
    Down through body.

    Its a simple matter that the iPod’s wiring is way more conductive than the human body, skin doesn’t actually conduct electricity very well but blood conducts electricity very well. It would have to have gone up the wires into his ears because going from the thin flesh in his inner ear and through his -entire- body, was easier than punching through his body from the side (which doesn’t make much scientific sense to me… I would think lightning would go -right- down your sweat-damp skin rather than take the ‘long’ route up your body and then ‘back’ down through you to the ground…

    I’d love to see the medical records, would be interesting, if morbid.

    I think we’re all pretty safe from freak lightning + side flash + conductivity issues + iPod = Doom scenarios.

  10. pestie says:

    @DashTheHand: No, it’s because, as far as the media’s concerned, every MP3 player is an “iPod,” just like every DVR is a “Tivo,” etc.

  11. MalichiDemonos says:

    OUCH!!!! Theres… something… in… my… head… AHHHHHHHHH!!!

    Its supposed to do that. Feal the music course through your body.

    “A 35 year-old iMan was brought into the iEmergency room after having been struck by iLightning that had jumped to his iBody after striking a iTree, a phenomenon known as “iSide flash.”

    But seriously… i thought the headphones were made out of plastic?

  12. DeeJayQueue says:

    I’m sure it doesnt’ matter what device you’re wearing. It could be an iPod, walkman, CD player, cell phone, etc. It’s more fun to say iPod than “Personal audio device” so that’s what people say, nevermind that it makes it seem like only iPods are affected by this.

  13. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    iPods are made in China. Where’s the ‘Chinese Poison Train’ tag?

  14. Craig says:

    Slow news day? There have been stories about this kind of thing happening since the Walkman came out.

  15. tylerkaraszewski says:

    Does the iPod still work? If not, will Apple replace it under warranty?

  16. Xerloq says:

    I’m just glad I stopped piercing my lip with a doorknob, thank you Mythbusters. Imagine if you pierced your lip with an iPod?

    Also, I wonder if the iPod was a “flash” based Nano. Would that exacerbate the injuries?

    Finally, they do recognize that the danger is for any “personal stereo equipment, such as portable compact-disk or MP3 players,” and that this specific case was an iPod.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    If the zapped guy doesn’t want his iPod any more, can he send it to me?

  18. EtherealStrife says:

    You realize earbuds (in general) are designed as antennas, right?

    This seems kinda “DUH!” to me. Any metal device is going to increase your damage from an electrical strike.

    @MalichiDemonos: And how does the sound reach your ear? Copper is a great conductor.

  19. All that and no brain damage? Considering all the other damage he got, guy lucked out.

  20. beyond says:

    It wasn’t the ipod, it was the headphones. He could have been wearing wired headphones that weren’t plugged into anything and the same thing would have happened.

  21. @EtherealStrife: This is a fact.

  22. cabinaero says:

    My local newspaper (St. Paul Pioneer Press) decided to run this story on yesterday’ss front page. My letter to the editor, in response:

    Kudos to the Pioneer Press for alerting us to the dangers of wearing an iPod in a thunderstorm. I’m glad the Pioneer Press decided to run ‘iPods: God Will Smite You’ on page 1A instead of real news: Such idiocy displayed prominently below the fold serves as an excellent forewarning to readers who prefer actual news in their newspaper.

    And I hold the same for any media outlet that publishes this story: it’s a freak occurrence; it’s not “news”, it’s tabloid sensationalism.

  23. Youthier says:

    Wait, wait, wait… you mean jogging in a thunderstorm is dangerous? And how does this affect the iPhone?

  24. inno says:

    In anticipation of a world-wide ipod recall, I will valiantly take early action. Please send me your own, your children’s and friends’ ipods, in return for my promise that this will never happen again. Do it now, you may save a life!