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Cyber-sports injuries on the rise

Jan. 4, 2010

by Ivan Raconteur

The gifts have been unwrapped, the feasts have been consumed, and the relatives have gone home, and now that Christmas is over, emergency rooms will begin to see a new wave of patients.

The wave will consist of the latest generation of Wii warriors who have just started using their new game systems, and they will be flooding medical centers for treatment of a wide range of “sports” related injuries.

These injuries are due not to any defect in the gaming system, but to a surplus of enthusiasm and a deficit of common sense on the part of some users.

It should be noted that some victims of this newest trend in sports injuries are not participants, but innocent bystanders who found themselves too close to the action.

I thought it was strange the first time someone told me that she bought the family a Wii system for Christmas, and spent the next 48 hours in front of the television playing computer sports.

As time has passed, however, the enormously popular game system seems to affect a lot of people that way, and new users apparently don’t want to quit once they start.

That may be part of the reason people get injured.

Some users, who may not have pried themselves off the couch for weeks, think they are invincible, and mistakenly believe can suddenly spend hours on end playing games that require at least some level of physical activity without consequences.

Many of these injuries are due to overuse, and have been categorized by some observers under the general term “Ninetendonitis.”

In some ways, taking up a computer sport and playing too much, too soon, can be worse than playing the original sport.

A person taking up tennis, for example, is likely to spend a lot of time chasing stray balls.

On the other hand, a person playing computer tennis may put stress on muscles and joints by repeatedly practicing the same limited motion without breaks.

There have been reports of people experiencing strained muscles from playing computer baseball, and one woman reportedly suffered a pulled hamstring while playing Wii bowling.

Other Wii sports injuries can be much more dramatic, and are the result of people doing wild things in confined spaces.

After hearing several reports about this, I did some research and discovered that for some people, injuries are part of the Wii experience, and they wear their wounds like badges of honor.

There are actually web sites on which people post stories of their ill-fated adventures and graphic photos of their injuries.

For one who was not accustomed to the world of computer sports, it was disturbing to see some of these photos.

The blood and gore resembled the images one might encounter in the triage area of a busy hospital on New Year’s Eve.

Many of the photos feature black eyes and battered faces that resulted from people stopping wild backswings or airborne equipment with their faces.

Lamps and ceiling lights seem particularly likely to fall victim to enthusiastic Wii sports participants.

One can see numerous photos of bleeding and bandaged hands caused by smashing a light fixture instead of a ball.

One guy cut his index finger to the bone when he destroyed a ceiling light while swinging at a high lob in tennis.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there is some evidence that suggests that the injuries in cyber-sports, just as in “real” sports, increase when alcohol is added to the equation.

Walls and furniture have been damaged and knick-knacks demolished by flailing sports enthusiasts and flying remotes.

One web site related the story of a guy who wound up with bleeding knuckles after he triumphantly raised his fists and leapt into the air after making a hole-in-one on a par 3 in Wii golf. There was apparently less space for celebrating in his living room than there is on a typical golf course.

There have been reports of guys who dislocated knees and ankles after swinging a bit too vigorously at pitches in baseball.

Some injuries are the result of just plain silliness, such as the girl who dislocated her knee while playing Wii tennis in high heels.

The fact emerges that computer sports can be as dangerous as the real thing.

Prudent participants will warm up and stretch out before leaping into the Wii warrior coliseum.

Sensible sportsmen will assess the limits of their virtual playing field, and clear the area of obstacles before they begin.

Those who choose to ignore these precautions, if they survive, might well be the next inductees into the Wii sports injury hall of fame.