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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 09:54 GMT
Vibrating games health warning
Gaming at home
Computer games can be addictive for children
Doctors are calling for vibrating computer game controllers to carry health warnings after a teenager developed a painful condition known as hand-arm vibration syndrome.

The 15-year-old boy spent seven hours a day playing computer games and particularly enjoyed those using the vibration mode on the control device.

He visited hospital with a two-year history of painful hands, which became white and swollen when exposed to the cold and then red and painful on warming.

He also suffered painful pins and needles in his hands and arms.

Knowing what children are like, I think it's important to raise the debate that excessive use can be detrimental to your health

Dr John Sallis, Alder Hey Children's Hospital
Doctors say his symptoms are typical of the hand-arm vibration syndrome seen in industrial settings when people repeatedly use tools such as chain saws and pneumatic drills.

In a report in the British Medical Journal, the authors say that with an increasing number of children using these games, there should be consideration for statutory health warnings.

Dr John Sallis, who treated the boy at Liverpool's Alder Hey Hospital, said: "It was quite clear this boy had major problems.

"I think there should be some warning that prolonged and excessive use of these vibrating games can produce problems.

"Knowing what children are like, I think it's important to raise the debate that excessive use can be detrimental to your health."

Safety advice

Sony, which manufactures the top-selling Playstation games, said it had never received any feedback or complaints about hand-arm vibration syndrome after 61 million sales world-wide of Playstations I and II.

It stressed that there was occasional, but no constant vibration during either game.

Nick Sharples from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe said: "Given the vast number of people who have had these games and the lack of reports of any problems, perhaps it's not necessary to have the warnings.

"If people read the manuals they will see there's already various guidance on usage already."

Each game comes with health guidance stating people should take a break of about 15 minutes during each hour of play.

It is not clear whether the boy with hand-arm vibration syndrome has suffered any permanent damage or if his condition will ease in time, but doctors are monitoring his progress.

Dr Sallis is advising children to exercise caution and moderation when using these vibrating games.

He said: "I don't know what the safe limits are but seven hours a day is a bit excessive."

Injuries associated with the use of computers or their accessories include joystick digit, mouse elbow and central palmar blister on the inside of the hand.

Computer games journalist James Binns
"The games industry is very responsible"
See also:

29 Apr 00 | Education
Video games 'valid learning tools'
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