Where there's a Wii, there's a competitive father with back trouble


Last updated at 00:48 23 January 2008

Competitive dads are suffering a spate of injuries after spending too long playing computer games with their children.

Back experts say unfit adults are under-estimating the physical effort needed to play the Nintendo Wii and similar consoles in their living rooms.

Some of the worst muscle and neck pains - dubbed Wii Strain - are being picked up by fathers determined to beat their children at virtual boxing and tennis.

The Wii, Christmas's must-have games console, has proved a massive hit among families.

Unlike traditional games machines, which use a thumb-controlled joypad, the Wii is played by waving a wireless, motion-sensitive box through the air to control the movement of bats, racquets and boxers.

When the console was launched in 2006, doctors reported a flurry of patients complaining of Wii Strain. Now, after huge Christmas sales, those injuries are back.

According to Martin Davies, an osteopath in Cheshire, middle-aged parents pestered into playing "just one more game" with their children are at the greatest risk.

Mr Davies saw 20 new patients in the weeks after Christmas, each the parent of an enthusiastic Wii player. He said: "I think there is a link between using a Wii inappropriately and suffering injury.

"In the first fortnight after Christmas I saw 20 parents, predominantly with neck and shoulder strains.

"Over Christmas it's natural for parents to spend lots of time with their children, but some are spending hours and hours playing tennis and boxing.

"Parents, as much as the youngsters, have to learn to follow the guidelines."

In some cases, patients have been in so much pain they have been unable to drive or to go to work.

"New players often overestimate how high they need to swing and wave their arms to control the games. Usually, just small movements are enough to send a virtual tennis ball flying over a net."

The consoles can also be addictive - leading some to play for hours at a time without taking a break.

Mr Davies added: "But it isn't all bad news. The son of one of my patients lost a stone in weight by playing the Wii games.

"The days of a child sitting in front of a screen and exercising little more than their thumbs may now be over. The more modern games can be hard work and require lots of energy."

He recommends players warm up before starting a Wii session.

Strains are not the only risk for players. Some addicts have reported black eyes and bruises after getting too close to an enthusiastic player.

A Nintendo spokesman said: "Nintendo is confident that by using the Wii remote and wrist strap in compliance with the guidelines provided, people will fully enjoy our games."