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Health & Pregnancy

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Video Game Causes Damage From Vibration

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Feb. 1, 2002 -- Video games have been fingered as the cause of various health problems, including obesity from lack of physical activity. But now, here's something that could really shake things up: Researchers are announcing the first-ever report of a 15-year-old boy who developed hand-arm vibration syndrome from hours of game time.

In the past, several different types of injuries have been reported from use of computer or video games -- joystick digit, mouse elbow, and palm blisters.

In this case, the boy had been feeling pain in his hands for two years. His hands became white and swollen when exposed to the cold. Then they turned red and painful when they warmed up again.

Many different things could cause these symptoms. But doctors ruled out underlying diseases. This sort of condition also can develop in adults who operate heavy equipment with their hands, such as chainsaws or highway-maintenance equipment.

But the boy's symptoms started after prolonged use of a home video game system -- Sony Playstation. He spent up to seven hours a day playing the game. That alone could cause some ill effects on his health, but in addition, he enjoyed driving games with the vibration mode activated on the hand-held controller.

The boy's symptoms are typical of what's often seen in cases of hand-arm vibration syndrome some adults get on the job. Due to lawsuits, tools have been developed that limit vibrations and workplace improvements have been made.

The full report appears in the Feb. 2 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Although the boy's seven hours of playing time is excessive, the researchers wonder if this injury is more common than we may think.

"We believe that, with increasing numbers of children playing these devices, there should be consideration for statutory health warnings to advice users and parents," they conclude.

Parents should closely monitor the amount of time their children are playing these games. And the vibration mode -- when used for prolonged periods -- may have particularly damaging effects.

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