By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University
- A scientific study published last year showed a 5.6 X increased prevalence of shoulder and elbow pain in young baseball players who played video games three or more hours per day compared to those who did not
We are now about two weeks away from the start of the 2019 Little League World Series. There will be a lot of baseball, of course, but there’ll also be a lot of Fortnite and other video games being played. With that in mind I thought it would be interesting to take a look at an article published in 2018 showing a strong association between videogame playing and risk of shoulder and elbow injuries in baseball players.
Researchers from the Tohoku University School of Medicine in Japan found that players who spent three or more hours daily on videogames were 5.6 times more likely to have felt elbow or shoulder pain in the prior year than those who played videogames for less than an hour a day.
Could this possibly be real? Do we actually need to add extensive videogame playing to the list of risk factors for shoulder and elbow injuries amongst young baseball players?
The study was published last year and looked at 200 boys between the ages of 9 and 12 at a national tournament in Japan in 2017. The authors found what they described as a ” significant association” between extensively playing videogames and elbow or shoulder pain.
For the statistical junkies amongst you “the prevalence of elbow or shoulder pain was 30.0%. Playing video games for ≥3 hours/day was significantly associated with elbow or shoulder pain vs. spending <1 hour/day playing video games (odds ratio, 5.59; 95% confidence interval, 1.44-21.64; P = .013).”
Interestingly, the amount of time spent watching television was not significantly associated with the prevalence of elbow or shoulder pain.
While it’s true that “association” does not mean that playing extensive video games caused shoulder or elbow injury, the strength of the relationship is actually pretty strong. It certainly merits consideration as a potential factor.
So what exactly is going on here? Well that’s a matter of speculation at this point. I found it interesting that playing three or more hours of video games was associated with injury risk but watching TV for three or more hours was not. So is it something with the use of the controllers? Is it something about the posture that gamers adopt while playing?
Certainly the effects of poor lifestyle habits on overall health status are very well known. At one end of the spectrum a sedentary life, poor exercise habits, and poor nutritional habits are known causative factors for early onset obesity and type II diabetes.
At the other end of the spectrum we are gaining increasing knowledge about the effects of excessive sport participation on a range of overuse injuries.
So I wouldn’t say that “Fortnite shoulder” is a real entity. And let’s face it, the game is pretty darn fun. The best advice has been around for centuries: “all good things in moderation”.