Gaming devices, mobile phones put children at risk for wrist, finger pain

June 10, 2011

Playing Xbox and Game Boy systems for long periods of time and frequently using mobile phones for texting are associated with wrist and finger pain in children, according to a study presented at the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) 2011 Annual Congress in London.

Playing Xbox and Game Boy systems for long periods of time and frequently using mobile phones for texting are associated with wrist and finger pain in children, according to a study presented at the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) 2011 Annual Congress in London.

Researchers studied the association between game consoles (Xbox, PS3, Wii), handheld devices (PSP, iPod touch, Game Boy), and mobile phones (iPhone) and wrist and finger pain in 257 students (aged 9 to 15 years) from 2 US schools. Study participants answered questionnaires regarding device use, duration of use, and consequent wrist and finger pain.

Using the Xbox and the Game Boy/Game Boy Advance systems were associated with the highest levels of wrist and finger pain. Pain resulting from using these systems was significantly higher than pain reported for using the iPhone (P=.036 vs P=.042).

Researchers also found that the amount of time spent playing was independently associated with pain. For each hour of play, the odds of reporting pain doubled (P

Using a multivariable generalized linear model, pain associated with mobile phone use was linked to sending text messages, quantity of text messages sent, use of text abbreviations, and type of keyboard. Females reported having twice as much pain as males.

“Overuse can lead to tendonitis and other joint problems, including carpal tunnel syndrome,” says investigator Yusuf Yazici, MD, NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York. “Long-term effects of overuse due to gaming devices are not known but other overuse conditions lead to many joint problems described in adults for the most part. How these will affect kids who are still developing their musculoskeletal [systems] is not known.”

Furthermore, the results suggest that children could benefit from time limits for playing with gaming devices, handheld devices, and mobile phones. The researchers also recommend that children take frequent breaks from using the devices.

Ince DC, Swearingen C, Yazici Y. Pain in children 9-15 years old using game consoles/handhelds and mobile phones: implications for policy makers [abstract]. Poster presented at: European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) 2011 Annual Congress; May 25-28, 2011; London, UK. Abstract OP0004.