There are lots of stories about injuries caused by people being … erm … engrossed in video games. Ever since they came out, I have been in eager anticipation of treating my first video game induced injury; I know, I know, I really should get out more! I imagined it would involve some feat of gymnastics resulting in a spectacular fracture with bones poking out of places where bones should never be seen. But there was no such drama. Both the affected were young people and luckily they had fairly minor symptoms which should resolve if they follow the appropriate advice. Oddly enough I saw both these injuries on the same day!
The first had been brought about by playing on an Xbox. The teenage boy was suffering from a wry neck or torticollis. His neck was contorted to one side as it was being pulled painfully with a muscle cramp. It transpired that this lad played at least six hours of Xbox a day during the week and double that at the weekend! He had marks imprinted on his back from the chair. I suggested that he should give it a rest for a few days, to give his body a chance to recover. I also proposed that thereafter he should cut down the hours he spends on the game and remember to take regular breaks. The look of horror on his face was priceless – one would imagine I had suggested that he should hack off his manhood with a pair of rusty scissors and douse the wound with lemon juice! He refused point blank to entertain the idea, which in my mind suggests a somewhat unhealthy attitude and obsessiveness towards the game. I left him to the wrath of his mother…
The second case was a girl complaining of tingling in her hands, cramps and wrist pains. Being very young and new to video games meant that because she had suddenly started to spend a couple of hours a day on the Wii it took its toll on the tendons in her wrists, causing them to become inflamed and painful. I suspect she was suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. The family took on board the advice to reduce the time spent on the game and to increase the breaks as well, so I’m sure that she will be fine.
No one is suggesting that these games aren’t great fun, but all things in moderation. It is the repetitive movements for hours on end without taking a break that causes the problems. Now the evenings are brighter, get outdoors and play on your bike or with a football to break up long sessions on the video games and give the whole body a work-out.
To avoid any permanent damage when enjoying your video games;
• Remember your posture and make sure you have a decent chair that gives you good back support
• Take regular breaks every twenty minutes or so, move around and stretch out, this also gives your eyes a well earned break too
• If you feel pain, tingling, cramp or burning – STOP before you make things much worse and do something completely different instead for a while
For simple sprains and strains consider;
• Resting – and this means especially from playing the games that are causing the problem in the first place
• Ice packs for 20 minutes four times a day
• When possible elevate the limb
• Simple painkillers may help (follow the instructions on the packet)
Always seek medical advice if the symptoms persist though as you may benefit from further assessment or physiotherapy.