Wednesday, September 14, 2011

5 Shocking But Real Medical Conditions Linked To Video Games (Retro Repost)

Note: This article was originally published as part of my time as an Associated Content Featured Contributor to the Video Games Section. Associated Content was later bought by Yahoo! and renamed Yahoo! Voices. Yahoo Voices shut down in July of 2014. This article is being republished here on The Code, backdated to its original date of publication to remain as a record of my writing.

From your parents scolding you not to play video games so close to the television, to opinion and editorial pieces in newspapers across the country calling video games the next harbinger of a violent society, video games are blamed for a host of maladies, both social and physical. Video game players might be forgiven as dismissing old wives' tales, or ignoring talking-head pundits blustering about video games. When medical experts begin to weigh in with conditions they have seen in patients, it might do well for even the most hardcore gamer to sit up and take notice. Here are 5 shocking but true medical conditions that have been linked to playing video games.

5. Acute Wiiitis 

Dr. Julio Bonis, a practitioner of family medicine in Madrid, diagnosed and named a muscle injury he called "Acute wiiitis" in June 2007. He first noticed the condition, pronounced "wee-eye-tiss", when he awoke after a playing a few rounds of the Wii Tennis game the night before. While the injury was similar to the strain tennis players are at risk of, appropriately named "Tennis Elbow", his injury was in the wrist and forearm area. He noted that his colleagues had made similar observations or complaints of injury and muscle fatigue after playing Wii Sports. Luckily, the treatment, as outlined in the New England Journal of Medicine was fairly simple: take ibuprofen for one week, and abstain completely from playing any Wii video games.

Of course, this wasn't the first time playing games for a Nintendo console had sparked diagnosis of an injury. If one looks back a few generations to the heyday of the Nintendo Entertainment System, one will find doctors talking about a malaise affecting hardcore gamers of the 1980s called...

4. Nintendinitis

First discussed by Dr. Brazington in the May 17th 1990 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Nintendinitis (also called “Nintendo Thumb”) is a repetitive strain injury caused by overuse of the directional pad on the NES controller. The main symptoms of Nintendinitis are blistering, swelling and acute numbness of the digits. The extremity most commonly afflicted with Nintendinitis was the thumb, but any finger used to operate an NES controller was diagnosed as at risk for the affliction. Nintendinitis can also be a precursor to other repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. The recommended treatment for Nintendinitis was usually a short regimen of anti-inflammatory medication, an over the counter pain reliever and strict time limits on the length of video game play sessions.

Nintendo isn’t the only video game console manufacturer to have its own ailment. The Sony Playstation alarmed some dentists with one malady dubbed…

3. Playstation Lip

First noted in the June 10th, 2000 issue of the British Dental Journal, “Playstation Lip” had two dentists, R. L. M. Inglis and R. R. Welbury quite concerned. They noted two separate patients that came to their office with severe lower lip trauma. When further questioned, the patients admitted to intensely chewing and sucking on their lower lips while concentrating on playing Playstation games. Other symptoms included jaw muscle fatigue and bleeding of the inside of the lower lip.

While the usual treatment recommended for Playstation Lip is a matter of relaxation techniques and learning to modify one’s beahavoir when concentrating, in these patients’ case the lowerlip trauma was so severe that they required to use of soft splints and mouthguard-like shields for the gums. Of course, while the conditions outlined so far are injurious but not life threatening, there can be more severe consequences.

2. Video Game Induced Epileptiform Seizures

The first case of an epileptiform seizure that was linked to playing video games was reported in 1981. Over the past 30 decades, hundreds of cases of eliptiform seizures triggered by video games were reported. Further study has shown that the risk of seizures are not for younger children with photosensitive epilepsy (where seizures are triggered by light), but also in children and adolescents with epilepsy that are not photosensitive at all. This increased risk is why most video game published place warnings about an epilepsy risk in video game manuals, and sometimes in the video games or console startup sequences themselves.

There currently is no known cure for photosensitive epileptic seizures, so most of the treament methods treat symptoms, along with a healthy dose of risk prevention. The most important steps for prevention of these seizures when playing video games: take a 15 minute break every hour, play in a well-lighted area, and to make sure you’re at least 6 to ten feet away from the television when playing video games.

One curious case went even further than the possibility of triggering seizures, when a teenager came down with a case of…

1. Traumatic Mental Detachment

In late 2008, 13 year old Lorenzo Amato was found by his father, curled up in a state of shock, and appearing as if in a stupor. Lorenzo did not talk, respond to questions, or even seem to know where he was. When he was rushed to the emergency room, doctors thought Lorenzo might have suffered a stroke or aneurysm. Later, they determined that this had happened after a marathon session in front of the Playstation. Antonio Buccoliero, a local politician, told reports that “…once [the doctors] understood that this was a strange kind of mental detachment connected to his PlayStation,” they were able to successfully treat Lorenzo. Lorenzo later told reporters that he asked his father to throw out his Playstation, saying “If I even think about it I want to throw up.”

While these conditions are strange but true, the key to continuing to enjoy playing video games without tying your muscles up in knots, harming your lips, or placing yourself at risk for light-induced seizures and eyestrain is moderation. According to the Mayo Clinic, taking breaks after every half hour, stopping when you get tired or feel fatigued, and resting your eyes if you feel sore, dizzy or nauseous will go a long way towards making sure you enjoy your favorite video games without taxing your body.


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