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5 Ways to Prevent Injuries from Video Games

e-sports can cause physical problems, too

With COVID cases surging, children still aren’t back to all their normal activities. So video games may be occupying more of their time than usual. Or perhaps you had an avid gamer even before the pandemic. Either way, did you know that video games can actually cause injuries?

That’s right. Your kid doesn’t have to be out on a sports field to suffer an orthopedic issue. “Game-related injuries—gamer’s thumb, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel and other overuse injuries—are at an all-time high,” says Dr. David Hassinger, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of Direct Orthopedic Care, which has five locations in DFW.

So before you rush out to buy a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X for a holiday gift, make sure you’re aware of how to keep your child feeling A-OK during their E-sports exploits. Hassinger shared these tips:

Set time limits. Extended gaming is bad for eyes, body and posture, says Hassinger. He recommends limiting daily video game play time to two hours or less. Most gaming systems come with some type of parental controls; you can also set a timer to let kids know when their session is over.

Exercise with them. No weight-lifting or high-impact workouts required—Hassinger says simple hand exercises will stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons affected by gaming. That’s important, because the repetitive finger and hand motions used in gaming can cause tendon inflammation in the thumbs, wrists and arms. Here is what Hassinger recommends:

Thumb Extensor Stretch – Hold hand out, palm facing up. Extend thumb away from other fingers. Stretch thumb across the palm toward the base of your pinky. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat four times.

Wrist Joint Circles – Gently rotate wrists in a circle 10 times. Reverse and rotate wrists counterclockwise.

Forearm Stretch – Extend arm out, palm facing up. Using the other hand, gently grab fingers from underneath and pull downward until you feel the stretch in the top part of your forearm. Hold for 30 seconds. 

Buy proper equipment. As long as you’re investing in a gaming system, make sure your child also has the right accessories. “For gaming, this refers to ergonomic chairs and keyboards,” explains Hassinger. “This will eliminate slouching and decrease pressure on their spine and wrists, which can lead to poor posture and nerve impingement.”

Make them take breaks. Time away from the gaming console breaks up the repetitive motions and back and neck strain that is responsible for most orthopedic injuries, notes Hassinger. He suggests that for every 30 minutes of game time, kids should take a 5-minute rest to stretch. “Even college and pro athletes take period breaks from their activity,” Hassinger points out. “Gaming is no different.”

Know when to ease up. “If your child begins to experience pain or trouble grasping or gripping, do not let them play through it,” Hassinger warns. Take time off, and talk to a doctor if needed.

How much video game time does your child get? Have they suffered any physical problems? Let us know at editorial@dfwchild.com.

Image courtesy of iStock.