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The Dangers of Exergaming

Friday, February 05, 2010 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD
The whole world of exergaming (using video games as a means to get exercise) really came to the forefront when the Nintendo Wii first came out, complete with remotes that you actually had to move in space rather than just pushing a button or two. In time they also added a balance board as part of the Wii Fit game series which involved your whole body and not just your hands. More recently, EA sports created a new series of active games for the Nintendo Wii (Wii Active) which uses a legstrap for one of the controllers to involve the lower body in place of the balance board. As someone who has purchased the Wii Active game I can say that you can get an alright workout on those days when there is a blizzard outdoors. But, thus far, exergaming (from my experience) in no way compares to the intensity as well as the caloric expenditure of more traditional exercise (only so much you can do while jogging in one spot).

An interesting development in the world of exergaming, as discussed in a recent publication in the New England Journal of Medicine is that of injuries sustained by vigorous exergaming. Most of us can remember the sore thumbs we used to get while playing Mario Bros on the original Nintendo console in the early 90’s. In fact, there was a clinical term adopted for the thumb injuries kids were sustaining on account of Nintendo – “Nintendinitis”. As the brief article suggests, “Wiiitis” is also becoming a common problem.

What’s more, due to the more dynamic nature of Nintendo Wii playing, more serious injuries can also be experienced. For example, one 14-yr old girl in the UK sustained a fracture in her foot as she fell off of the Wii balance board during game play, requiring the subsequent use of crutches.

In another example, a 55-yr old woman swung her Wii remote so vigorously that she ended up falling chest first into the corner of her couch, breaking a rib and puncturing a lung in the process. After surgery, she recovered – though likely will not be playing Wii Tennis with nearly as much vigor as before.

And finally, there is also a case report of an 8-yr old girl being hit in the head with a Wii remote which was being swung around by her older brother in the midst of some fierce Wii action. This one seems the least surprising to me, as on the few occasions I’ve played Wii with a group of 4 people – it can get pretty dangerous. Make sure you have a LARGE living room!

Have a great weekend and try not to hurt yourself or those around you while exergaming. Instead, just go for a nice walk outside.

Peter Janiszewski

Eley, K. (2010). A Wii Fracture New England Journal of Medicine, 362 (5), 473-474 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc0909544

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5 Response to "The Dangers of Exergaming"

  1. Caroline Said,

    While I appreciate this blog, you make it sound as though injuries do not occur with other more "regular" forms of activities.

    Posted on February 5, 2010 at 3:27 PM

  2. Anonymous Said,

    Oh please....those aren't dangers of exergaming. Those are dangers of being unbalanced.

    I have found the EASports workouts to be sufficiently vigorous to break a pretty good sweat, primarily due to the squats and lunges.

    The WiiFit is GREAT for people who are older, less balanced, out of shape.

    But for a gym rat like you

    Posted on February 5, 2010 at 4:18 PM

  3. Travis Saunders Said,

    @ Anonymous,

    I'll agree with you that Wii Fit is ideal for certain situations - I've heard that the Wii can be very useful therapy for individuals with motor problems.

    I think a lot of the accidents with Wii happen when people don't realize just how much space they need. The few times I have played the Wii, I have been surprised at just how much space I need in order to play without whacking the furniture or my friends.


    Posted on February 5, 2010 at 4:31 PM

  4. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    @Caroline - It goes without saying that injury can be experienced during any form of activity - it was never my intent to suggest otherwise. Over the years, I have accumulated plenty of sprains, pulls, dislocations, bruises, etc. directly due to the activities I was performing. I partly found it a bit amusing that people get so into their Wii gaming that they can end up at the hospital - that was the perspective I tried to get across. Nevertheless, I am working long hours writing up my doctoral dissertation so my writing may be suffering in clarity as a result:)

    @Anonymous - "Gym rat" - should I be offended?:)


    Posted on February 5, 2010 at 5:07 PM

  5. Anonymous Said,

    I think the end tone 'go out for a nice walk' kinda leaves a very anti-Wii taste to this post, and that is disheartening. I mean, don't you want to encourage people to do ANYTHING to get moving? If it's a Wii or nothing, why not Wii? Sure, Wiinjuries happen, but probably not any more frequently than 'real' exercise/sport injuries.

    I plan on Wii-ing tonight, because with 6" if very wet, slushy snow on the ground temperatures falling below freezing, it's not practical to take a long enough walk outdoors to exercise (I did take the dog around the block, but that hardly counts). And it'd also be irresponsible to drive to the gym, considering the road conditions.

    And it slightly beats sitting at the computer playing computer games all night...

    Posted on February 5, 2010 at 6:35 PM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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