Games in Healthcare

Experts Determine Reality of Wiiitis

A Depiction of Tennis ElbowResearchers from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota have been investigating the impact of handling the Wii Remote controller on gamers. In an article to be released in the May 2008 issue of the Skeletal Radiology medical journal, the group’s study reveals the condition is real.

The affliction was brought to light last year by Dr. Julio Bonis, who woke up one morning with a sore shoulder after having played Wii Sports Tennis for hours, days before. The physician wrote about his condition, which he dubbed Wiiitis, to the New England Journal of Medicine. Read More...

Now, further research from doctors at the Mayo Clinic shows the condition is indeed real, through MRI analysis of an initially healthy 22-year old. The patient experienced shoulder pain after “prolonged participation in a physically interactive virtual video-game” of Wii Sports Bowling.

As a result of his magnetic resonance imaging the patient was diagnosed with “acute Wiiitis and was treated with rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and a lymphedema wrap for his left arm," states the study, quoted by Gamecritics.com.

The researchers suggest that wiiitis may be caused by the light weight of the controller in conjunction with abrupt movements.

"[L]ittle resistance is offered by the light 200 g handheld controller to the aggressive maneuvers made by the participant, which may lead to awkward deceleration forces being applied to the upper extremity.... It is likely that, during the deceleration phase of swinging the Wii controller, there is significant eccentric loading on the participant's muscle groups, causing the ultrastructural damage, as demonstrated in this case."

The incidence of wiiitis is bound to increase, believes Dr. Bonis, since "unlike in the real sport, physical strength and endurance are not limiting factors. […] I have not found other cases in my clinical practice, but it is probably an underdiagnosed condition."

Wiitis is being compared to another gaming affliction, Nintendinitis, a soreness of the thumbs following extended game play. The obvious key to preventing these types of injuries is moderation. Nintendo does warn gamers not to play for excessive periods of time with a warning screen when upon Wii start-up, as well as a in Health & Safety inserts packaged with every game.