Health Tips

Resource: Dr. David Hildreth and Physiotherapy

Video Game Craze Can Lead to Hand and Wrist Ailments in Children

Professional Hand Therapists Issue National Education Alert and Offer Health Tips to Prevent Future Inquiries

Video games represent 80 percent of the entertainment within American homes. Children will spend hours in front of the television and computer monitor this summer playing video games. While the dominance of video games may diminish backyard bruises, scrapes and broken bones, the hours children spend engaging in gaming activities can lead to "overuse" injuries of the hand and upper extremities.

The American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT) has issued a national education alert for parents and is offering injury prevention tips to help the millions of children and young adults playing video games avoid hand and upper extremity problems later in life.

"It is important for children to take the proper precautions in playing video games as it is for them to warm up and safeguard against injury before a soccer game. Video games are immensely popular and hand therapists are working to keep young hands healthy as they enjoy this activity," said ASHT Past President William W. Walsh, MBA, MHA, OTR/L, CHT.

"The repetitive movements associated with playing video games can lead to future ailments - given the excessive hours of play time. Professional hand therapists are working to educate parents and children on how to avoid potential injury risks and keep young hands healthy," Walsh continued.

According to Walsh, video games involved intense grips, repetitive punching motions on small buttons and sharp wrist movements. Extensive video game playing may lead to musculoskeletal disorders or repetitive stress injuries such as "Nintendo Thumb," a repetitive stress injury that causes swelling at the base of the thumb as a result of video game overuse. Continued stress on tendons, nerves and ligaments in a child's hand and arm could potentially lead to long-term ailments such as lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, tendonitis, bursitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

The ASHT recommends that parents teach their children the following hand and wrist exercises to reduce the risk of future injuries.

  • Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body as you extend your arms forward. You should feel a stretch all the way from your shoulders to your fingers. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.
  • Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body, but this time extend your arms overhead. You should feel the stretch in your upper torso and shoulders to hand. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.
  • Place your hand just above the back of the elbow and gently push your elbow across your chest toward the opposite shoulder. This is a stretch for the upper back and shoulder. Stretch both the right and the left arms. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.
  • Raise one arm overhead. Bend the elbow. Place the opposite hand on the bent elbow and gently push the elbow back further. This is a stretch for the triceps. Stretch both the right and left arms. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.
  • Extend an arm out in front of the body making sure that the elbow is completely straight. With your palm down, take the opposite hand and bend the hand down toward the floor. Then turn the palm up and stretch the hand up toward your body. This stretches the forearm and wrist muscles. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.
  • Open up hands and spread the fingers as far as possible. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat eight times.

"Parents should not only encourage their children to practice these exercises before playing video games, but also help them to develop overall healthy video game habits. This will keep children from developing injuries, while at the same time allowing them to enjoy their favorite games," said Walsh.

These exercises should never be painful when completing them. You should only feel a gentle stretch. Should you experience pain, please consult a hand physician.