Beware Holiday Video Game Thumb

Children who receive the must-have gifts of the holiday season, Sony's PlayStation 3 or Microsoft's XBox 360, may get something that they didn't wish for — sore thumbs and hands — says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

"Video Gamer's Thumb" is a very real condition that can have long-term effects on children's hands and upper arms if they don't take proper precautions, says Cindy Miles, PT, MEd, PCS, owner of a pediatrics physical therapy private practice in Whitehall, PA. Continued stress on tendons, nerves, and ligaments in children's hands and arms can lead to long-term consequences such as tendinitis, bursitis, and carpel tunnel syndrome, explains Miles.

"Video Gamer's Thumb" refers to a repetitive stress injury (RSI) that causes swelling at the base of the thumb due to overuse of video games. RSI is an umbrella term for a collection of disorders most commonly affecting the hands, wrists, forearms, and shoulders, notes Miles. She adds that symptoms can range from fatigue and loss of strength to minor or acute aches and pains, burning, and tingling.

Just in time for the holidays, APTA has produced a colorful, one-page tip sheet "stocking stuffer," featuring simple hand stretches and exercises to prevent "Video Gamer's Thumb." This useful stocking stuffer can be downloaded at www.apta.org/consumer.

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