Gamers, take care of your thumbs

By • Published: December 13th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The game is close. Your team is ahead by a field goal, but three points isn’t going to do a lot of good if Tom Brady gets the ball back with two minutes to spare. You’ve got no choice. You’ve got to make a play.

You scan the field, scrolling left and right, and find your receiver. A few rapid-fire taps to the A button, the B button and the back button later and you’ve made it into the end zone.

It isn’t until a few weeks and more than a few all-night Madden sessions later that you notice the tender swelling around your thumb. Playing football on a video game instead of on the field probably won’t leave you with a torn ACL or a concussion. But there is a serious health risk gamers face when they overdo it with the joystick.

Whether you call it gamer’s thumb, gamer’s grip, Playstation thumb or even Nintendonitis, hand injuries commonly occur after the repetitive use of game controllers and the strain on your overworked digits. Similar injuries can occur in people who chronically text message. And it’s not a problem to ignore. The injury can worsen over time and even lead to more serious problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

But there are some steps you and your favorite gamers can take to keep your trigger fingers from getting benched. First, keep your wrist straight instead of bent when you hold the controller. Try to take a break every hour or so you are not constantly pressing buttons. If you are playing games on a computer, make sure to switch which hand is using the mouse periodically. You can also add in a few exercises to keep your hands in good working order. For example, one exercise therapists suggest is to fan out your fingers and hold the pose for 10 seconds.

In short, don’t forget about your hands when you’re immersed in Halo. You may want to keep playing, but sometimes your fingers need a break too.