Injuries from Wii, Other Interactive Video Games, On the Rise: Study

Injuries involving interactive video games, such as the Nintendo Wii, are on the rise as the units increase in popularity, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers presented the results of the study to the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition earlier this month in San Francisco. They found not only were interactive video game players hurting themselves more often, but they are increasingly hurting bystanders as well, particularly young children who may be standing too close to the players.

While experts note that the likelihood of being injured while playing, or watching someone else play, a video game is small, the number of injuries is increasing. From January 2004 through January 2009, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System collected data on 696 video game-related injuries. Of those, 92 occurred while someone was playing an interactive game.

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Interactive video game injuries were more likely to include shoulder, ankle and foot injuries than traditional video game injuries, and they were more likely to consist of cuts, bruises, strains and sprains. They are also more likely to strike an observer who is standing nearby, particularly children who do not know how far away to stand. Traditional video game injuries were more likely to involve seizures, eye injuries and neck pain.

The findings come amid increasing concern by some physicians about the severity of interactive game injuries, which can be comparable in some cases to injuries sustained while playing actual sports.

Many of the more severe injuries are related to use of the Wii Fit balance board, which rests two inches off the ground and requires users to quickly adjust their balance while standing on the board to play certain video games. Most commonly, users suffer what doctors call “Wii-knee” which is caused by frequent bending at the knee while using the balance board. In some cases, the injuries have involved the kneecap becoming dislocated. 

The injuries are not restricted to use by the balance board. The standard Nintendo Wii controller, a wireless remote that is sensitive to hand movements, has been associated with injuries being called Wii-itis by doctors and users.

As early as 2008, doctors warned about the risk of Nintendo Wii injuries, indicating that they were seeing an alarming number of new injuries by players of the Wii. Most of the injuries were associated with stretched or torn tendons, similar to tennis elbow. Doctors estimated in 2008 that the Wii put an average of 10 users in the hospital every week.

One of the problems, experts say, is that people using the Wii often do not approach it the same way they would normal physical exercise. They do not stretch first and often play for extended periods of time. Stretching before playing and limiting Wii play time to sessions comparable to doing actual exercise could eliminate many injuries, doctors say.

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