…And this little injury went “Wii Wii Wii” all the way home.

480px-Wii_console[originally published in KCN, March 2007]

Did you know that whiplash injuries were relatively unheard of before the automobile was invented?  Likewise, carpal tunnel syndrome wasn’t even a blip on the health care radar before computers hit the scene.  And whoever thought that a “mouse” could cause so much trouble?  The truth is, as we become more and more innovative and advanced in our technology, there seems to be an injury, or set of injuries, lurking in the shadows to complement it.


Such is the case with video games.  Sure, repetitive button pushing and joystick jerking can take its toll on the one’s thumbs, wrists, and elbows — that’s old news.  We learned that a long time ago when the Atari 2600 hit the market with popular games like Asteroids and Pac-Man.  But times have changed — big time.   And Nintendo’s new Wii (pronounced “we”) game system is definitely proving this point.

Unlike its predecessors, the Wii system uses a “motion-sensitive” controller (called a “wiimote”) that lets people simulate activities such as baseball, tennis, and boxing.  In other words, instead of just sitting still and maneuvering a joystick, the gamer is actually up on his feet, wiimote strapped to his wrist, moving his body in ways that simulate the activity he is playing — a true “virtual reality” sporting event.

The positive side of this new gaming adventure is that it gets people off the couch and moving.  The negative side is that it gets people up off the couch and moving.  It’s kind of a “catch-22”.  When you take a gamer who is accustomed to sedentary game playing and thrust him into a position in which he is up and active  — the potential for newfound injury exists.

And with nearly 600,000 gaming units sold in just the first eight days of its release, it’s precisely why the American Chiropractic Association was quick to chime in with some advice:  “Stretch first, then play.”   Already, the Wall Street Journal has coined the term “Wii-elbow” for injuries coming out of Wii’s video tennis game.

Elise Hewitt, D.C. — president of The ACA’s Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics— stated in their release that the unique game “involves a considerable amount of energy,”  and added, “While I applaud a game such as this because it gets people off the couch and moving, it’s important for children and adults alike not to overexert themselves.”

The ACA offered the following stretches to help avoid back, shoulder, and other musculoskeletal pain:

Neck Rolls: With your shoulders relaxed, drop one ear to your shoulder and gently roll your neck forward and back, holding each position about five seconds.  Repeat five times.

Shoulder Stretch: With shoulders down and relaxed, bring right arm across the chest, parallel to the floor. Place the left hand on the upper arm and apply gentle pressure toward the body. Repeat on the left side.

Climb the Rope: While standing, look up slightly.  Reach up and over your head with your right hand.  Then reach even higher with your left hand.  Continue by crossing your right hand over your left as if you were climbing a rope.  When done correctly, you should feel the stretch in your shoulders and upper back. Do three repetitions on each side.

Upward Stretch: While standing, weave your fingers together above your head with the palms up. Lean to one side for 10 seconds, then to the other. Repeat this stretch three times.

In addition, they recommend  taking frequent breaks – at least once every 45 minutes for most people. Those with less stamina may need to take a break every 20-30 minutes.

Good advice, but what the ACA failed to mention, was that musculoskeletal injuries are just the tip of the iceberg.  The Wii has been the root of many other injuries, including cuts, scraps, and black eyes from unsuspecting bystanders as they get clocked in the face as the gamer heroically battles a monster in Zelda.  Of course the wiimote has been known to accidentally leave gamers’ hands, launching into the room — sailing through televisions sets, bashing walls, and busting lamps. (check out www.wiihaveaproblem.com and www.wiidamage.com — you’ll be amazed).

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So what’s a gamer to do?  Well, if you find yourself experiencing pain or discomfort in the joints and muscles long after “Game Over,”  a visit to a chiropractor could prove to be extremely helpful.   Doctors of Chiropractic practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis, and treatment. They are trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary and lifestyle counseling.

Of course, if your problem centers more around a broken television set, lacerated hand, or damaged drywall — you’re on your own.

________________

Sources used for this article:
Chiropractors issue warm-up warning for wii users.  Evansville Courier & Press.  Evansville, IN.  12/25/06.  http://www.courierpress.com/news/2006/dec/25/hazardous-play/
Doctors to wii players:  stretch first.   Springfield News Leader.  Springfield, MO.  12/18/06.                               http://www.news-leader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061218/LIFE04/612180309
Its a virtual game, but beware real injury.  London Times.  United Kingdom.  12/14/06.                  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article753930.ece
Stretch before ‘gaming’ to prevent injury, says American Chiropractic Association. Press Release. ACA.  11/30/06.     http://www.acatoday.org/press_css.cfm?CID=2036
Stretch:  warm-ups advised for wii gamers.  Winston-Salem Journal.  Winston-Salem, NC.  12/04/06.        http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSJ%2FMGArticle%2FWSJ_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1149192000840&path=!living&s=1037645509005
websites devoted to Wii injuries/damage:  www.wiihaveaproblem.com; www.wiidamage.com
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