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Getting a PlayStation 5 this holiday? Avoid injury, overuse

Jazmon Parham and Desi Lyons celebrate their purchase of a PlayStation 5 from Game Stop in Daytona Beach, Fla., while Black Friday shopping. Getting a new video game system this holiday season? Make sure to avoid injuries.

You can't wait for your kids (or adult family member) to open up that new PlayStation 5 or other gaming system this Christmas. Maybe the kids are off school and playing a bunch of video games they already have.

Those game systems, though, can come with some unique injuries. Dr. David Hassinger of Direct Orthopedic Care has had his own gaming system snafu. He remembers when he first played with a virtual reality game and fell over the couch.

"I was a disaster," he says. "It was extremely challenging and a lot of fun." 

Dr. David Hassinger of Direct Orthopedic Care

He isn't alone, and some of those couch pratfalls come with more serious consequences.

When Direct Orthopedic Care first opened, he says, he and his colleagues were seeing several broken bones from people falling over couches or tripping on something around them while playing a video game.

Now, mostly, he sees overuse injuries. Hassinger says the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is beginning to pay attention to injuries linked to video games. The May and June issues of its journal talked about both the incident injuries and the overuse injuries.

If you think about it, now there are esports athletes who are playing video games for multiple hours every day, and there are kids and adults who aspire to be like those esports athletes and are also playing games for hours each day. 

Hassinger sees gaming injuries happening mostly to the shoulder and down to the wrists, hands and fingers, but most common is tendonitis in the wrist and hand. The treatment for those injuries is typically not surgery but rather rest, steroid injections and wearing a brace.

Using a PlayStation 5 or any game system controller too much can lead to hand, wrist or finger injuries.

Hassinger recommends video game players warm up just like a physical sport athlete — by stretching. Put your hands in the prayer position, pushing the palms against one another by your chest with your elbows out. Then reverse that with the hands pointing down.

Another good one is to stretch the thumb back, down and to each side or use the other hand to stretch the thumb. Hassinger recommends doing each stretch for 20 seconds, three times each. 

Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop playing and let the injured area rest. Just like physical athletes, you don't want to play hurt. If you feel an injury starting, take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen and then limit the amount of time you play. 

The way Hassinger explains it: Back off now so that it doesn't become a big issue later and require injections, splinting or staying off a game for six weeks or so. 

Hassinger also sees neck and back issues from the way gamers sit. Sometimes physical therapy will be needed to work on improving the posture. 

Virtual reality games or ones where you move around a lot can lead to bone and joint injuries.

For most video game injuries, you won't need to see a doctor right away if you treat it with rest. But for things like a broken bone (especially with the bone poking out, if you took a particularly nasty fall over that couch) or a loss of function (such as the thumb being unable to move up and down or side to side anymore), then you want to see somebody that day.

Hassinger says Direct Orthopedic Care has definitely seen more overuse injuries during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We've seen a lot more of everything," he says. "A lot of adults that were home with their kids are getting back into skateboarding and doing all kinds of interesting things like minor trauma fractures."