Call it what you will: gaming, eSports or competitive gaming has become a popular pastime, and in some cases a virtual career. With the recent outbreak of coronavirus and social distancing (also called physical distancing), people of all ages are now joining in from consoles, laptops, tablets and even virtual reality (VR).
Unlike traditional sports, gaming allows players to participate in the comfort of their home. Depending on the platform, participants may play with handheld controllers, keyboard and mouse, touchscreen, or wear a headset and goggles. While gaming is relatively safe, injuries can occur. Here, I will share some of the more common ones and how to prevent them from occurring.
What Types of Injuries Can Occur from Frequent Gaming?
It really depends on the platform.
Laptop, tablet and PC gamers generally have the same type of injuries as people who work at a computer all day. They’re sitting close to the screen for long periods, so eyestrain can become a problem. As they sit, their shoulders tend to hunch over, and repetitive movements can affect their wrists and hands.
Typical complaints I hear include:
- Eye strain, or tired eyes
- Ear issues, from loud headsets or headphones
- Inflammation and swelling of the tendons, the tissues that connect muscle to bone
- Pain and numbness from nerve compression in the area of the forearm and elbow
- Neck and shoulder strain, from extended periods of poor posture
Console gamers who play on platforms like Xbox or PlayStation use handheld controls, sometimes with headsets to connect with other players. Because they often sit hunched on the couch and they’re using those small, repetitive movements with the controllers, we see the same type of injuries as players on computers.
Virtual reality is a unique challenge, as players use headsets and actually move their bodies around to play. Because their eyes are focused on the game and not their surroundings, I see injuries from falls or tripping. I also see hand and arm injuries from hitting objects while playing. Imagine a player swinging a virtual sword, for example.
How Can Injuries Be Treated, Especially During Social Distancing?
While you’re participating in gaming, it’s also important to maintain your health. Put your own guidelines in place to prevent gaming injuries from occurring. Here are some tips:
1. Be mindful of your posture.
Many injuries such as back and neck strain are caused by prolonged sitting and poor posture. Use mindfulness techniques to remind yourself to sit up straight, with both feet firmly on the floor.
Mindfulness involves self-awareness and paying attention with purpose. Take notice of your posture when you sit down, for example. Are your feet firmly on the floor? Is your back comfortably straight? If not, adjust. Take stock of your posture every few hours.