Younger generations seem to be developing horns in the back of their skulls due to the extended use of technology like smartphones and tablets.
Two Australian researchers made the bizarre discovery while examining hundreds of X-rays of people aged between 18 and 30, finding almost half had developed bone growths.
They’re the kind of spurs normally seen in hunched-over elderly people who’ve subjected their bodies to long-term poor posture and significant stress loads on their bones.
But the presence of the “horn-like” skull growths raise serious concerns about what extended use of phones is doing to young people’s bodies.
The findings by Dr David Shahar and Associate Professor Mark Sayers at The University of the Sunshine Coast flew under the radar when they were published at the end of last year, two years after their initial warning about the trend.
But a BBC article last week about how tech is changing the human body cited their research and saw an explosion in interest in the work.
Dr Shahar said the study looked at 218 X-ray images of people aged between 18 and 30 and found 41 per cent had developed a “horn-like” bony lump at the back of their heads, ranging in size from 10 millimetres to 30 millimetres.
Additional testing, including MRI scans, ruled out the possibility that the bone growths were the result of genetics or injury.
These kinds of growths are typically found in older people and result from long-term stress on the skeleton and, until the advent of gadget technology, were rarely found in young people.
“This is evidence that musculoskeletal degenerative processes can start and progress silently from an early age,” Dr Shahar said.
“These findings were surprising because typically they take years to develop and are more likely to be seen in the ageing population.
“It is important to understand that, in most cases, bone spurs measure a few single millimetres and yet we found projections of 10 to 30 millimetres in the studied young population.”
The findings offer a warning about the impact of poor posture, especially in young people, due to extended phone and gadget use.
“We hypothesise that the sustained increase load at that muscle attachment is due to the weight of the head shifting forward with the use of modern technologies for long periods of time,” Dr Shahar said.
“Shifting the head forwards results in the transfer of the head’s weight from the bones of the spine to the muscles at the back of the neck and head.”
Dr Sayers and Dr Shahar continue to examine the phenomenon and plan to develop resources to help avoid the growths, particularly in school kids.
“The thing is that the bump is not the problem, the bump is a sign of sustained terrible posture, which can be corrected quite simply,” Dr Sayers said.