Adolescents who are tasered by law enforcement officers do not appear to be at higher risk for serious injury than adults, according to new a new study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers.
This latest research from Wake Forest Baptist is the first to specifically investigate Taser use on adolescents. Lead author Alison R. Gardner, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist, found no major differences in the injury rates or types of injuries to youth when compared to adults.
"We were looking closely for increased risk of cardiac effects and bodily injuries because of the differing body size and build of adolescents, but there were no significant injuries reported for this age group," said Gardner. "There were 20 mild injuries recorded and the majority of these were expected superficial puncture wounds from the weapons' probes."
The research appears this month online ahead of print in Pediatric Emergency Care. This was a retrospective study of Taser use from law enforcement data collected by the largest, independent multicenter database established in 2005 with funding by the National Institute of Justice. Tasers, or conducted electrical weapons, are non-lethal defense weapons used by law enforcement personnel to shock a person with probes from a distance.
Gardner and colleagues reviewed 2,026 Taser uses and found that 100, or 4.9 percent, were against adolescent suspects ranging in age from 13 to 17, with an average age of 16. Most of the youth were tasered by law enforcement officers during incidents involving civil disturbance, assault, robbery and burglary. Alcohol or other drug intoxication was known or suspected by police in 30 of the 100 cases, according to the study.
A limitation of the study is that the mean age (16), weight (168 pounds) and height (5 feet 8 inches tall) of the individuals reviewed indicates that this "population of minors mirrored the physiology of older adolescents and adults, more so than that of young or small children," Gardner said. "In real-life situations, Tasers were used in adolescents who were larger and older. This implies that law enforcement personnel are using Tasers as apprehension aids when physical apprehension is not easily accomplished, as would be the case in smaller and younger subjects."