Harry Potter has cast a protective spell over accident-prone children, doctors claim today.
Despite his enthusiasm for Quidditch and jet-powered broomsticks, the youthful wizard appears to have had a benign effect on his fans, researchers have found.
Compared with earlier crazes for in-line skating and microscooters, which clogged up accident and emergency departments with sprained ankles and broken limbs, the Harry Potter craze has been surprisingly injury-free.
Stephen Gwilym, an orthopaedic surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, and colleagues investigated the impact of the books on accidental injuries to children at the peak of their use.
They found that in the two weekends when the latest Harry Potter books were launched - 21 June 2003 for The Order of the Phoenix and 16 July 2005 for The Half-Blood Prince - injuries to children fell to their lowest level.
They monitored all children aged seven to 15 admitted to the emergency department with musculoskeletal injuries during summer weekends for three years from 2003 to 2005.
The results, published in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal, showed that 67 children were injured on average each weekend but the number fell by 30 per cent to 36 and 37 in the two weekends when the Harry Potter books were launched.
Alarmingly, but in a spirit of festive fun, the researchers suggest that there may be a place for "a committee of safety-conscious talented writers who could produce high quality books for the purpose of injury prevention". Apart from the irreparable harm that this would do to children's literature, they acknowledge that it could trigger "an unpredictable increase in childhood obesity, rickets, and loss of cardiovascular fitness".