Video Games May Cause Kids Pain
Study Shows Some Kids Suffer Finger and Wrist Pain That Makes Them Curtail Playing Time
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 19, 2009 (Philadelphia) -- If your child suffers from unexplained
finger or wrist pain, video games could be to blame.
A new study -- initiated by an elementary school student -- suggests 12% of
young players have finger pain severe enough to limit their gaming time. Ten
percent report wrist pain curtails their playing time.
The long-term health consequences, if any, are unknown. But researchers
point to a growing body of evidence linking PDAs, cell phones, and other
electronic gadgets to repetitive stress injuries.
The new study was presented today at the annual meeting of the American
College of Rheumatology.
Eleven-year-old Deniz Ince, an avid video game player, tells WebMD he wanted
to find out if the games were to blame when he noticed his thumb hurt when he
squeezed oranges. When his rheumatologist dad realized he wasn't going to drop
the issue until he had the answer, the two enlisted the help of researchers at
the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases.
"My original goal was to prove that the new game systems don't cause any
problem or pain because they are mostly tilt and motion, not press like the old
ones, but my study showed otherwise," Ince says.
With the help of the adult research team, Ince handed out questionnaires to
171 of his classmates, ages 7 to 12, at Rossman Elementary School in St.
Playtime and Pain
More than 80% reported playing with game consoles such as Wii, Xbox,
and PlayStation 3 or handhelds such as iTouch, iPhone, GameBoy, and PlayStation
Portable. A third said they played both types of games.
Half said they played less than one hour a day, a third reported playing one
to two hours daily, 7% reported playing two to three hours per day, and 6%
reported over three hours of play a day.
The longer they played each day, the more likely the children were to
experience finger or wrist pain, says researcher Yusuf Yazici, MD, of New York
University Hospital for Joint Diseases.
"But the younger the child, the more pain they experienced, independent of
how long they played each day," he tells WebMD. "The 7-year-old who played for
two hours reported more pain than the 10-year-old who played longer."
Younger children could be more prone to joint pain than older kids because
their musculoskeletal systems aren't as developed, Yazici says. "It's likely
they can't compensate for the range-of-motion demands on the tendons and
"Kids who played Wii were two-and-one-half times more likely to report pain
than other participants," regardless of their age or how long they played,
Yazici says. But he notes that most of the pain was relatively mild.
Edward J. Mendelsohn, MD, of Manhattan Rehabilitation Services, says that
parents need to monitor their kids' playing time.
"One hour a day is plenty and probably too much," he tells WebMD.
Also, make sure the young gamers take frequent breaks, stopping to stretch
for at least five to 10 minutes after 45 minutes of play, adds Mendelsohn, who
was not involved with the work.
As for Ince, he says he's cut back on his gaming to less than an hour a day,
although he acknowledges playing longer if a friend comes over.
His advice to other kids: "If you're over 7, don't play more than an hour a
day. If you're younger than 7, give it a break until you're older."