Gaming is Serious Stuff
When we talk about work and sport related injuries gaming hardly figures in the picture. But consider this, there are 2.3 billion gamers worldwide (Source- Newzoo) in 2018. More than half of them actually spend money on gaming pushing the revenue of the gaming market to 137 billion in the year 2018. The number of gamers is predicted to rise to 2.7 billion and the market to 180 billion by 2021. With these kind of numbers and growth rate gaming surely deserves serious attention and yes, there are injuries that arise out of gaming and gaming related activities.
In this article, let us try and understand a few important terms associated with gaming injuries and a few ways to avoid them. These tips would be very helpful for a gaming enthusiast who is starting on his own adventure in the gaming world!
What is Posture?
The classic definition of posture from dictionary is something like this; “the position in which someone holds their body when standing or sitting.”
Further, we can differentiate posture into static posture and kinetic posture. Static posture is how our body is positioned when sitting and standing and kinetic posture is the way the body is positioned when we perform an activity, whether it is work, sport or any other.
To make it more clear, we can define posture as “the way our body parts are aligned to each other whether at rest or during an activity.”
Deriving further, there is a correct way to position our body while performing an activity physically or at rest and there are multiple other ways. The former is called good posture and the later bad posture. It would be now obvious that good posture mitigates the risk of injury and bad posture exacerbates the risk.
The first sign that bad posture is affecting our body is stiffness, pain and discomfort in the body areas associated with that activity. When ignored for longer time, these aggravate and result in injury and some of them could be irreversible.
So posture is a key term in understanding gaming injuries where one spends long hours sitting and engage in furious activity of playing with controls involving the fingers, wrists, forearms and most importantly eyes.
What is ergonomics?
Let us look at the classic definition once again. “Ergonomics is the scientific study of people and their working conditions, especially done in order to improve effectiveness.”
Ergonomics is the result of understanding that posture plays an important part in injuries in any activity and to design equipment to help an activity get done faster and with minimal discomfort or risk of injury to a person who performs that activity.
Now we can reword Ergonomics as“the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so that they fit the people who use them.”
Ergonomics is a whole new area of study and is growing in importance as work related injuries are studied more extensively.
In the gaming industry, ergonomics has resulted in producing keyboards, mouse and monitors that help the gamers play longer and avoid injuries. Even ergonomic desks and chairs are now in the market.
Common Gaming Related Injuries, Their Symptoms, Treatment and How to Prevent Them
The name “Lee Jae Dong” might not exactly ring a bell in your mind as Stephen Curry or Tiger Woods does but he is one of the top ranked players in eSports (read gaming). Gamers don’t have the same visibility as other sportsmen from other more popular segments but they are professionals in their own right and suffer injuries too. There is a long list of top gamers whose careers have been set back or even cut short by injuries.
Most gaming related injuries happen in the upper extremities but injuries to eyes and back also are prevalent. In this section let us look at a few of them.
Condition:Also called de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, this condition arises when two tendons that control the movement of the thumb and tendon sheath are inflamed.
Symptoms:This results in restriction of movement, swelling of the thumb, pain in the radial nerve and difficulty gripping.
- Take regular breaks while playing
- Stretch your fingers – Holding your hand straight and flexing the thumb with the other hand towards the wrist will help.
Treatment: Anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids, occupational therapy or surgery on an as needed basis.
Condition:Trigger thumb is the condition wherethe flexor tendon of the thumb gets inflamedand the tendon gets stuck in the A1 pulley, a structure at the base of the hand. This can happen in any finger and is also called “trigger finger.”
Symptoms:Pain and the finger/thumb getting stuck and releasing with a pop. This is because of the nodule that develops in the flexor tendon. In acute cases, the finger/thumb might get stuck in the bent position.
Prevention: Rest and stretch the fingers and especially the thumb at frequent intervals of 20 minutes or less.
Treatment: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, rest, corticosteroid injections, icing rest, splinting or surgery to release the A1 pulley.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Condition:The median nerve, one of the main nerves of the hand passes through a tunnel in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. When this nerve is compressed or squeezed the condition is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Numbness, tingling, or pain in fingers excluding the little finger extending into the forearm.
- Infrequent shock-like sensations in these fingers.
- People also drop things due to pain, numbness and being unaware of spatial orientation of the hand.
- Difficulty in using the hand to perform minute activities like buttoning the shirt due to weakness in the hand.
Prevention: Like most other injuries mentioned, rest is the best way to prevent the injury or aggravating it. Wrist exercises help greatly and finding a suitable ergonomic keyboard and mouse will greatly reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Wrist brace that can be worn overnight will ease pain in the morning.
- Occupational therapy with home exercises as follow-up.
- Icing and massage
- Cortisone injections
- Surgery to release the median nerve.
Condition: This is also called lateral epicondylitis. Which means inflammation of the outer bony projection at the bottom of the humerus or upper arm that is called the outer epicondyle. The tendon that extends your fingers and wrists called extensor Carpi RadialisBrevis suffers micro damage due to overuse and repetitive action like those experienced in racquet sports, hence the name. But it can happen to gamers too.
- Pain on the outer side of the elbow
- Weakening of grip strength
- Rest is the best option to ease the pain and aid recovery.
- Ergonomically designed vertical keyboards help ease the stress.
- Proper hand position while handling the gaming keyboard can prevent the strain
- Physical/occupational therapy coupled with ice cold massage
- Braces designed to ease the stress
- Stretching exercises for the wrist
- Cortisone injection if needed
Computer Vision Syndrome
Condition: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)are a group of problems with vision associated with prolonged computer use. Dry eyes, eye irritation, sensitivity to light and shoulder and neck pains all are from this group.
- Dry eyes due to failure to blink at regular intervals which stops production of tears that lubricate the eyes.
- Eye irritation
- Sensitivity to light
- Shoulder and neck pains from having to strain to look into the monitor.
- Ergonomics is the key once again. Proper positioning of the monitor so your eyes are level with the top third of the monitor.
- Proper distance (an arm’s length for the monitor, six feet if playing on a television screen)
- Frequent breaks to help eyes recover
- Eye exercises that promote lacrimation or tear production
- Anti-glare screens for the monitors and proper monitor setting to reduce the glare
- Proper lighting to make for comfortable viewing
- Rest is the best remedy. Rest your eyes are proper intervals to reduce their workload.
- Eye exercises can help restore freshness and reduce strain
- Prescription based artificial tears can help with dry eyes
- Computer glasses that have anti-reflective coating can reduce glare and strain
Equipment that enhance ergonomics
There is a wide variety of equipment that helps improve ergonomics and prevent gaming related injuries in the market now. The popularity of gaming has resulted in innovations in keyboards, mouse, monitors and chairs.
Ergonomics is not a one for all solution. Each person needs his/her own set up that is comfortable for his body and activity. Research well and pick the ones that suit you best.
Follow Good Practices and Gaming is Fun!
Gaming is one of the fastest growing sports and the growth will accelerate in the coming years. With more and more people playing the sport either as a hobby or as professionals. It is important that they are aware of injuries related to their sport and prepare well to prevent a career-threatening injury. The above steps will be of help in recognizing and preventing common injuries and we hope you will take adequate preventive steps and enjoy a long and happy gaming career.
Mohan is a Senior Software Engineer at Swag Swami, an online E-Commerce portal for Coding T Shirts and Dresses in India. He is also an avid gamer who spends his free time logged into Steam. He also practices Yoga and meditation regularly and teaches Yoga at the Cosmopolitan Center in India.