MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - During the protests over the death of George Floyd last spring, local doctors began to witness an influx of patients at area hospitals and urgent care wanting to be seen for what they call "traumatic injuries."
Health care professionals said they saw an increase in the number of head, neck, and eye injuries.
"We saw a massive increase right away," said Sam Cramer, a neurology resident at the University of Minnesota.
The increase in numbers was worrisome for health care professionals like Dr. Cramer. That’s what prompted them to dive deeper into what caused the injuries. After examining 89 patients, health care professionals found that nonlethal weapons caused a substantial number of patients with serious injuries to the head, neck and face in their latest study.
"Most of those patients were injured by kinetic impact projectiles which include rubber bullets and tear gas canisters," said Erika Kaske, a U of M medical student.
Researchers found these items can have severe damage.
"We noticed that many [injuries] were associated with these crowd control devices that were being deployed at the time during the protest," said Dr. Cramer. "In terms of injuries identified in the study, folks had sustained horrible injuries to the eye which resulted in the loss of vision in those eyes."
According to researchers, under current practices, projectiles are not appropriate for crowd control.
"When you look at these guidelines for these weapons from the [United Nations,] they say hits to the head, face, and neck are potentially unlawful," said Kaske.
"We need to be re-examining with our law enforcement agencies what crowd control looks like and how to keep people safe," said Rachel Hardeman, a reproductive health equity researcher professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. "I think we also can't divorce this from the fact that we are struggling as a community and as a society around racial justice. We're seeing these things happen in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement and people going out into the streets to be able to voice their, their concerns around that injustice and then being harmed in the process."
In a statement to FOX 9, the Minneapolis Police Department said they have not had a chance to review the research but welcome the opportunity.