Diagnosis Wii-itis


I’m a pretty sore loser at tennis, especially when my husband rockets those serves toward my face and I want to throw my racket at his head. But my arm never aches after as it does with the Wii tennis video game.

I notice I emulate the real motion of the swing with my remote while my daughters execute abbreviated swipes at the screen to place shots, serve and return. They’re so aggressive, if it were the real thing, I’d take them out of school and put them on the circuit to support our family. But truth be told, I fear too much time spent with this year’s holiday gift will result in those Wii-related sports injuries on the rise- everything from tennis elbow to sprained ankles and severe eyestrain.

This week on Good Morning America, GiGi Stone coined the phrase “Wii-habilitaion” in her piece featuring a woman whose shoulder injury from boxing sent her to an orthopedic surgeon. A doctor told ABC News he is seeing 10 to 12 new Wii injuries per month and attributed the epidemic to “exuberant overuse.”

In other words, both kids and adults get hooked fast and play for several hours at a time. Gone are the days of exercise in the great outdoors. Since the virtual sports aren’t as strenuous as playing for real, you don’t feel the fatigue that signals it’s time for a break. The strain results from repetition. (As with any exertion, doctors recommend stretching before and after playing.)

A condition called Wii-itis first surfaced in a report by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 when the Nintendo game was gaining popularity. This holiday season it sold out nationwide (reports of the Wii being bad for the environment have yet to score big points). Nintendo says it provides plenty of guidelines with the equipment to prevent injuries.

At a site called Wiiinjury.com, victims from unstrapped remote accidents share their sob stories: black eyes, bruised cheeks, shattered wine glasses. There was even a bogus class action lawsuit in 2006 in which the plaintiffs argued the remote straps were faulty and caused injuries. Nintendo says when used properly, the remotes stay affixed to the wrist and don’t go flying into faces. The company’s precautions also suggest how far to stand from your opponent and from the TV screen.

Apparently, Wii humans aren’t the only ones who can take a beating from ignoring guidelines. The most reported accidents involve smashed televisions.

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.