Orthopedic Conditions in Gaming
There are many benefits that video gaming can provide: decreasing stress and anxiety, providing hours of entertainment, and even paying out financially for those who compete professionally in ‘E-Sports’--the top ‘pro-gamers’ in the world take home millions in single tournament prize money, and U.S. colleges are now offering their students thousands in scholarships to recruit for e-sport teams. Whether you play video games for fun or for competition, it is important to be aware of the orthopedic conditions that can arise with prolonged game-play.
Overuse Injuries in Gamers
Just as with other activities and sports, overuse injuries are common amongst the gaming community; these injuries are uniquely different from those of a basketball player or a marathon runner, but the mechanism of injury is the same: the participant is performing an activity or movement too much, too fast, for too long, and the body can't handle the physical demands of the task.
Orthopedic injuries of the hands, fingers, and wrists are prevalent amongst players due to increased APMS (actions per minute) on keyboards and forceful ‘button-mashing’ of controllers; this can lead to players developing upper extremity conditions such as: Gamer’s Thumb, Mouse Elbow, and Carpal Tunnel. Spinal conditions in the neck and lower back are familiar to the casual and professional gamer alike due to poor ergonomic positioning, and a lack of core and postural stability.
How to Prevent Injuries and Improve Performance with Gaming
In order to prevent these injuries, players need to be able to adapt to the stresses placed upon their bodies, and require progressive loading of the involved joints and muscles and purposeful rest breaks.
E-Sport athletes can keep their bodies at the top of their game by increasing their endurance capacity, incorporating strength and conditioning into their training routines, and practicing proper nutrition and sleep habits--this can be the difference between longevity in your hobby or sport, and a life-altering or career-ending injury!
Tips to Promote Longevity with Gaming and Decrease Injury Risk
Monitor your time spent playing video games, limiting it to 2 hours a day for the casual gamer- Place an alarm on your phone, or set ‘parental controls’ on your console or device: Listen to your body for when it is time to rest, especially if you begin to feel pain and discomfort!
Take 5 minute rest breaks every 30 minutes: walk around, stretch your legs, and mobilize your hands, shoulders, and wrists.
Avoid slouching too far in your seat to decrease pressure onto your spine: use a small pillow to support your lower back, and keep your feet planted on the floor or a step.
Find the ideal posture of your shoulders, elbows, and wrists while holding the controller, keyboard, or mouse: a good posture involves neutral wrist alignment, the shoulder blades retracted and slightly lowered, and the shoulders, elbows, and wrists approximately at a 90 degree angle.
Be aware of the positioning of your screen or monitor: The top one-third of the screen should be level with your eyes, and it should be at least 20 inches away from your face.
Schedule out at least 30 minutes of daily moderate exercise: prioritize cardiovascular activity, and strength and resistance training.
How Physical Therapy can help with Overuse Injuries related to Gaming:
Get a Diagnosis and a ‘Game Plan’ to Help Recover from an Injury.
Ergonomic Assessments for Postural Alignment and Stress Reduction.
Manual Therapy to Improve Blood Flow and Reduce Tissue Restrictions (soft tissue and joint mobilization, stretching, and muscle energy techniques)
Therapeutic Exercises for Upper Body and Core Strengthening.
Self Care and Mobility for Pain Management.