Wii warriors coming up lame

The Providence (R.I.) Journal—May 11, 2009

To say that Wii injuries are an epidemic would be an overstatement, but they are proliferating along with the popular video-game system. Interviews with orthopedists and sports medicine physicians revealed few serious injuries, but rather a phenomenon more closely resembling a spreading national ache: patients of all ages complaining of strains and swelling related to their use - and overuse - of the Wii.

Call it Wii Shoulder. Or Wii Knee. If there is an epidemic of anything, it probably falls under a broader label: Nintendinitis.

“It’s great in the concept that it gets people active and involved,” said Dr. Brian Halpern, a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. “It’s not great in that you get lost in that and are overloading areas that you haven’t worked out in a long time, if ever.”

Halpern said he had treated two types of injuries: traumatic injuries like twisted knees and sprained ankles from playing the games in confined spaces, and repetitive stress problems from playing too long. A common problem is the realization by players that a full swing is not required; a flick of the wrist is often enough to return a serve or bowl a strike. As several doctors pointed out, that is the exact motion - concentrating the force of a swing in the muscles of the forearm - that can cause tennis elbow.

Halpern, a former assistant team physician for the Mets, compared some Wii injuries to those sustained by professional athletes.

“It’s like if you have a pitcher who has gone to spring training and hasn’t worked hard in the off-season and starts throwing too much and kind of overloads his shoulder or elbow,” he said.

Halpern said the shorter attention spans of younger children were probably preventing them from developing overuse injuries, describing their exposure to a variety of Wii games as “cross-training without even thinking about it.” Sore-shouldered and gimpy-kneed adults could be victims of their better focus, and also of their innate competitiveness.

Read the full story at projo.com.

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