Wii of Nintendo has become the video game to have these days. As of September 2007, it has become the best-selling next-generation games console. It still has familiar franchises like Mario and Metroid, but also offer new classics like the Wii Sports and Wii Play. What makes it different from the other consoles is the wireless Wii remote, which acts like a handheld pointing device.
However, with the rise in popularity of Wii comes stories of Wii injuries. Several blogs have become repositories of both funny and serious injuries and Wii problems, mostly resulting from being hit by the remote, usually when the strap breaks. Unfortunately, these are not the only types of injuries associated with playing Wii. Excessively playing the video game has resulted in repetitive strain injuries (carpel tunnel syndrome), back pain, knee and shoulder discomfort and elbow strain (tennis elbow) — conditions normally associated with actual competitive sports.
I interviewed Dr. Mark Klion with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Department of Orthopaedic, who is also a fitness consultant and seasoned athlete. This is the first part of the interview where we talked about playing Wii and Wii Sports. Here I highlight points of the interview for you to get the most of our phone conversation.
Kids Health Notes: I’ve seen a lot of injuries on the web but most of these have to do with hitting someone or something with the console. Do you see a lot of injuries in your practice resulting from over-exertion?
Dr. Mark Klion: We have seen definitely a few injuries like that. I can even tell you as an active user with my kids, I have seen and felt times when I’m boxing my son, that I occasionally develop a little bit of shoulder or elbow discomfort. You’re playing an activity that you normally would not do in real like. It’s a repetitive activity that really has zero limitations to it. When you play the tennis game, you can hit just so many tennis balls but when you were playing outside and half the time you’d be chasing those balls. You’re able to do a lot more in a shorter limited period of time. That’s all of what adds up to an overuse type of injury. And we’ve seen a bunch of injuries from the wii. Most of them are related to the upper extremities – to the shoulder, elbow and wrist.
KHN: Do you think this is becoming a concern among doctors?
DMK: No, I don’t think it’s a concern, it’s not really anything out of the ordinary it’s not specific to the Wii it’s specific to the fact that you’re performing repetitive activity.
KHN: In the real world, people playing tennis, Tennis, Baseball, Golf, Bowling or even Boxing would normally warm-up before the game. But very few people think of playing a video game as a strenuous activity, but it seems that’s the case with Wii. It’s weird to even think to “warm up” before playing it. What other precautions should people take before they get into the game?
DMK: The individuals we’ve seen we’ve obviously cautioned them that if gone from being a couch potato to suddenly a wii owner, our recommendations are that in the first few weeks you start out slow, you limit usage time to 20-30 minutes at the most. Do your own warm-up brisk walk, stretching, or swinging your arms around. If you feel discomfort – stop the activity, put some ice, take a break.
KHN: I don’t’ own a Wii – is there a precaution written in the video game manual to warm up?
DMK: Maybe in newer editions, nothing I’m aware of about athletic endeavor. Now the Wii Fit, I’m sure they’re gonna have some type of precaution since it’s a little more about physical activity.
KHN: Too much video games makes one sedentary. So we tell our children to ‘get out and play’ – have enough of physical activity and sports to keep them healthy. However the Wii is a mimic of these physical activities, Do you think this is better video game than the ones that use just joysticks and thumbs?
DMK: It will never replace activities outside, realistically. You can’t conceivably replace that. It is better than other Nintendo where it’s just hand control. I tell you you learn quickly that you don’t have to swing your arms like you do a tennis racket to mimic the stroke although everybody has a tendency to do that. If you just move your wrist ever so slightly the game picks up that subtle motion and swings the racket for you. You can go around and jump around, that’s definitely more activity. Wii experts, they sit very still and just move their wrists around small little motions and play the same games. It does give you an ability to be a little more active than standard thumb-user but you can also get away and not do that.
KHN: I’ve also seen senior citizens playing Wii-bowling at a nursing home facility. Anything in particular they should be mindful of?
DMK: There’s a lit of press of using these in rehab centers. I can tell you that if you’re confined to a wheel chair and loved to bowl when they were more active, it’s a great outlet for them to play a somewhat active game where they can swing their arms around. It won’t replace being actually in the bowling alley and playing but it’s fantastic. There are definitely some psychological merits, you can have competition among them.
KHN: That’s what I saw!
DMK: Yeah! It’s becoming a social event and you can have more than one player. Other video games have the same thing, but this is different because it’s not a fantasy-based game, it’s sports. It’s doing a little more active movements. From an emotional psychological viewpoint, it’s invaluable.
(This ends Part 1 of my phone interview with Dr. Mark Klion, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine. Tomorrow, I continue the interview and we talk about the new Nintendo exercise game Wii Fit.)