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THE MORNING BUZZ: Some Jokes Aren't So Funny

12 Feb, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

We have a cartoon running in an upcoming issue of Video Store Magazine in which a rentailer asks a customer what's wrong with his hands and the customer says he's injured with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) from playing video games.

I suffer with CTS so guess I'm the only person who doesn't think it's funny. But you want to know why it isn't funny? Check out the instructions that come with video game consoles. Down in a corner in teeny, tiny print is a warning not to play them for extended periods of time without a break.

That notice is on there because the manufacturers know that players can get repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) from too much repetition of the same motion, including on any video game or computer.

It may not have come to your personal attention yet, but since video retailers surveyed for this year's Top 100 survey anticipate their video game rentals to rise significantly in 2002, it behooves you to understand this malady.

As video games and even educational software have trickled downward to precocious children, kids are starting to show up at school with repetitive strain injuries. Your first instinct may be to say kids are just trying to get out of doing work, but these injuries often limit their playing, too.

Researchers at a prominent University back east have only recently begun to examine such injuries in very small children, but their research grew, in a large part, from noticing that more and more college students had to have note-takers attend classes with them because their hands or arms were out of commission from RSIs.

There are lots of ways to get RSIs. I have one friend who got tendinitis pulling deep-rooted weeds and another friend I met when he was retraining for a new career after spending most of his then-30-year life playing bass in orchestras. Lifting too much weight or doing it improperly is a sure path to a back injury eventually, if not right away.

Ailments like CTS and tendinitis are insidious because there are no outward signs even though they can be very painful and in some cases career-ending. Businesses, by and large, want to believe they don't exist because they would have to redesign some tasks to prevent them. Recently the Supreme Court bowed to that pressure and disallowed RSIs from coverage under the Americans With Disabilities Act, despite a reported 600,000-plus cases a year (the bulk of those, by the way, are back injuries).

Nobody has to develop an RSI. I manage mine with task variation (as important as it is simple) and a few pieces of special equipment and adjustments to ordinary equipment (i.e. chair position) that help me do my job.

Youngsters who do much computing should have desks and chairs appropriate to their size. Parents should teach them good keying posture and not let them sit at the computer or play video games for hours on end.

It's not up to rentailers to be the RSI police for customers, but they should be aware that CTS can result from too much computer time, including video games. If a mother complains her child is developing forearm or wrist aches during or after gameplay, rentailers should be prepared to at least point them to the manufacturer warnings. After all, when was the last time you saw a kid read the instructions before playing with a PS2, GameCube or Xbox?

None of the equipment is inherently evil, but like everything else about technology we have to be careful how we use it. It would be a shame if the generation we're raising on technology was too injured to use it by the time they leave home.

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