Taser Guns Linked to Seizures When Shock Delivered to Head

If a Taser stun gun accidentally delivers a shock to the head, it could do more than just incapacitate an individual, as a new study from Canada indicates that the controversial weapons could cause seizures or other brain problems.

Tasers are designed to hamper a person’s neuromuscular function by delivering a special electro-muscular shock. However, because the weapons are often used in chaotic situations and it is difficult to accurately aim where the charge is delivered, it is possible that sensitive areas such as the upper back or skull could be penetrated by the barbs that deliver the shock.

Researchers from the University of Toronto and Toronto Western Hospital recently analyzed a case involving a police officer who was accidentally hit in the head by a Taser shot that was intended for a suspect he was attempting to apprehend.

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After being hit, the officer lost consciousness and went into a seizure, foaming at the mouth with his limbs flailing for about a minute.

The officer had no history of head injuries, seizures or neurological conditions, and had a normal developmental history.

Approximately 18 months after being struck by the Taser in the head, researchers indicated that he continued to experience headaches and have trouble concentrating, with neurological exams indicating that he had a mild traumatic brain injury.

The Canadian researchers concluded that accidental shocks to the head may lead to a potentially severe brain injury. They suggested that seizures and brain-specific events should be added to the list of Taser-related adverse events.

Last year, Amnesty International issued a report that linked the widespread use and overuse of Taser stun guns to 334 deaths between 2001 and August 2008, with at least 50 of the deaths being directly attributed to the Taser shock.

Most of the prior research has focused on the cardiac effects of the stun guns, especially with repeated or prolonged shocks off more than five seconds.

Amnesty International has called on the government to either limit the use of Tasers to life-threatening situations, or to stop using the weapons entirely due to their ease of abuse and potentially fatal Taser side effects.


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