New videogames bring the pain



Central Coast shoppers rampaged through crowded local electronic stores in the days before Christmas, with many snaring motion-controlled videogame consoles and games--such as the Nintendo Wii and Guitar Hero--for holiday presents. But as the interactive systems offer gamers more physically demanding options, some experts say that couch potatoes can expect a host of health hazards to welcome their new year.

Like tennis elbow and runner's knee, overuse injuries occur--even in the gaming world.

"Anything done repetitively over time can lead to problems," said Sandy Sachs, a chiropractor for San Luis Obispo's Health in Motion. "It's not just 'Is videogame playing good or bad?' it's 'How long are you doing it?'"

For some, the answer to that question may be "A little too much."

"After playing Guitar Hero [a game in which the player simulates playing an electric guitar] all day and every night, I began suffering aching joints and sore fingers," said Elyse Widin, a 21-year-old Cal Poly mechanical engineering student. "My writing in class suffered. I would have to constantly stop and massage my hand."

But it's not just college students who've fallen victim to videogame-related injuries. World-class athletes have felt the harsh physical repercussions of active videogames.

In October, the Detroit Tigers lost relief pitcher Joel Zumaya for three games of the American League Championship Series after the then-22-year-old rookie suffered inflammation in his throwing wrist and forearm, possibly from playing Guitar Hero.

According to Sachs, inflammation, sprains, strains, tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and headaches are some of the most common injuries associated with videogames. But the injury most often overlooked--and maybe the most dangerous--involves how gamers position their body.

"Once you change posture, you set yourself for a chronic problems," Sachs said. "If my kids ever have video games, I'll make sure they have chairs that [promote] good posture."

Ultimately, Sachs said that he's pleased with the videogame industry's move toward encouraging physical activity.

"As adults and children, we're designed to move," he said. "Our bodies are designed to adapt, and the only way we adapt is by varying stressors. I commend the videogame industry."

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