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Yes, you can experience physical injury from playing video games.

January 12, 2022 | Orthopedic Care | Patel, Ashish Kumar, MD


If you think video games are just for teens, think again. Just about every demographic you can name — age, gender, race, location — games. Three out of four households in the U.S. include at least one person who plays, and 64% of all adults regularly play video games. In fact, 46% of gamers over age 65 started playing within the last decade. People who never played as kids are picking up video games in their mid 50s and later.

Is all this gaming bad for our health? People who play video games spend an average of eight hours and 27 minutes playing every week, and with that much time spent on anything, it’s only fair to wonder if there are negative effects we should be concerned about. But before we sound the alarms, could video games provide any benefits to our health?

Research shows that video games may strengthen cognitive skills like spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception. Studies have also shown improved creativity and problem-solving skills. Games that help relieve anxiety and multiplayer games that foster community may also deliver substantive health benefits.

But in addition to the cognitive benefits of gaming, there are health risks as well, including physical injuries like repetitive stress injuries. Also called an overuse injury, a repetitive stress injury occurs when muscles and tendons are used repeatedly to the point of pain and inflammation.

“Carpal tunnel syndrome is a fairly common injury among gamers,” said Dr. Ashish Kumar Patel, MD, an Orthopedic Surgeon with Penn Highlands Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. “Carpal tunnel occurs when the median nerve, which is one of the main nerves in the hand, becomes compressed from repetitive hand motions.”

Symptoms of carpal tunnel include numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand.

“Gamer’s thumb is another injury we see a lot in gamers,” said Dr. Patel. “The medical term is de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, and it occurs when the tendons that move the thumb become inflamed.”

People who regularly play video games may also experience trigger finger, or stenosing tenosynovitis, when chronic inflammation causes a finger to become stuck in a bent position, as well as tennis elbow, when the tendon that attaches to the elbow becomes inflamed.

Fortunately, all of these conditions are generally easy to treat at home. “Giving your hands a break is the best thing you can do to relieve pain and prevent further injury,” said Dr. Patel. “Take a few days off and apply some ice. Most of the time, that’s enough to do the trick. But if you’re still experiencing pain and inflammation, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. It’s important to not ignore your symptoms. Over time, repetitive stress injuries can cause temporary or permanent damage to your tissue, nerves and muscles. Being proactive is the key to prevention.”

Penn Highlands Orthopedic and Sports Medicine offers comprehensive care for a wide range of orthopedic injuries and conditions, including both non-surgical and surgical treatments. The orthopedics team at Penn Highlands includes highly experienced orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine physicians, therapists, nurses and advanced practice providers. For more information, visit www.phhealthcare.org/orthopedics.


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Patel, Ashish Kumar, MD

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Orthopedics / Orthopedic Surgery

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Penn Highlands Orthopedics and Sports MedicineA Service of Penn Highlands DuBois

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