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Disease Prevention

They Call It "Video Gamer’s Thumb"

One lingering result of the holiday season, now that the tree is down and the decorations stored away, is the number of children and teens, heads bent, intent on the latest version of a game on Sony’s’ PlayStation 3 or Microsoft’s’ XBox 360. They may also get something that they didn’t wish for – sore thumbs and hands – according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

"Video Gamer’s Thumb" is a very real condition that can have long-term effects on children’s hands and upper arms if they don’t take proper precautions, says Cindy Miles, PT, MEd, PCS, owner of a pediatrics physical therapy private practice in Whitehall, PA. Continued stress on tendons, nerves, and ligaments in children’s hands and arms can lead to long-term consequences such as tendinitis, bursitis, and carpel tunnel syndrome, explains Miles.

"Video Gamer’s Thumb" refers to a repetitive stress injury (RSI) that causes swelling at the base of the thumb due to overuse of video games. RSI is an umbrella term for a collection of disorders most commonly affecting the hands, wrists, forearms, and shoulders, notes Miles. She adds that symptoms can range from fatigue and loss of strength to minor or acute aches and pains, burning, and tingling.

To protect against injuries, APTA also recommends the following:

  • Keep wrists straight: do not let them bend downward when holding a game controller.

  • Practice good posture while playing. Sit in a chair that provides solid back support with feet comfortably on the floor.

  • Stretch and move. Remember to stretch and get up and move every 20 minutes for so to give head, neck, and shoulder muscles a break.

  • Watch for problems. Look for warning signs such as headaches, fatigue, muscle pain or cramping and suggest a break or alternate activity.

The American Physical Therapy Association organization representing nearly 70,000 physical therapists,physical therapist assistants, and students nationwide. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapist education, practice, and research.

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