Real Life

Game over: My nintendo nightmare

It was the make-or-break moment in the championship, and Claire Edmonson swung her baseball bat, hoping it was enough to secure victory. Suddenly, searing pain had her gasping in agony as her shoulder popped out of its socket, tearing tendons in her arm. Collapsing onto the carpet of her living room floor, Claire could hardly

believe that she’d suffered a very real sporting injury from playing a virtual game of baseball on a gaming console. Nine months later, Claire still has her arm in a sling after surgery to repair her damaged arm. The injury has meant taking time out from her job as a police researcher. She’s also missed out on her usual exercise routine, which has meant a weight gain of 5kg for the keen gym-goer. Claire (30), of Auckland, didn’t even own the Nintendo Wii video game console that she was using when injured. She was babysitting an 11-year-old girl at the time and, to keep her occupied, borrowed it from a friend.

In the past, gamers would use their thumbs to control the action on video consoles, but new models like Nintendo Wii have a controller device that has to be swung around to play the games. After previously dislocating her shoulder during a skiing trip in 2004, Claire expected doctors simply to pop it back into the socket. Unfortunately, the Wii injury was so severe, her shoulder kept dislocating and, in March, she had to have surgery to fix it in place.

“It’s going to be a year before I can move my arm above my head and get it back to 90% mobility,” she sighs. There have been other cases of interactive games causing injuries like Claire’s and Nintendo has now issued advice on how to avoid harm. These tips include advising players to not overdo their Nintendo workouts and to avoid using force while playing.

But the advice comes too late for Claire, who says the painful injury has turned her life upside-down and left her barely able to sleep at night because of the severe discomfort she experiences. “I haven’t had a proper sleep for months,” she says wearily. “I only get two or three hours a night, and end up feeling grouchy and agitated. I can’t take sleeping pills in case I roll on my shoulder so I’ve been given painkillers, but they make me throw up.”

She has spoken out about her unusual case to warn others about possible video game injuries during Safety Week, which runs from 7 to 14 September 2009. “I could never have anticipated this,” she says. “When I told my friend that I’d dislocated my shoulder playing Nintendo Wii, she just laughed, but now she can’t believe what I’ve been through. “I spoke to my physiotherapist about it and was told that there have been an increasing number of injuries due to the fact that there is no resistance when you swing the Wii controller. “You still smack the virtual ball with as much force as you would a real ball but because the hand-held controller is so light, your movement isn’t slowed down, and that’s when injury can occur. “Before the injury I was really fi t. I was going to the gym six times a week. Now I can hardly do anything.”

Thankfully, ACC was able to provide home help to clean Claire’s house and prepare her meals after her operation. “Because I don’t have family support here, I couldn’t do any of that sort of stuff,” says Claire, who is originally from the UK. She’s had to put study for her PhD on hold, and her social life has also suffered due to her badly damaged shoulder. “I’m very wary that someone might bump into it if I go out, so I’m very careful about what I do.”

“Some people at my gym have also hurt themselves playing Wii. one woman has stopped her son from using his because she knows how fi t I was before this happened, and she doesn’t know what impact it might be having on his little body.” Claire is urging others to carefully follow any instructions or safety information. “The console may have had some sort of warning on it but I obviously didn’t see anything on the box,” she says. “I won’t be playing it again and I won’t let my friend’s daughter play it either because I’d be too worried about the effect it could have on her joints.

“I used to be really fit and active and now I’m not. I never would have thought I’d need a year of rehabilitation to recover from playing a video game.”

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