Several researchers have touted the potential health benefits of Nintendo's Wii gaming system ever since the console's launch last fall. After all, the direct successor to the GameCube forces gamers to peel themselves from their couches and — gasp! — actually move.
But a doctor in Barcelona, Spain, claims he has stumbled upon a malady he believes is directly linked to hours of Wii activity.
In a letter published in the latest issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Julio Bonis details the first documented case of acute "Wiiitis," which he suggests is caused by extended play on the Wii console. The 29-year-old Bonis diagnosed himself with Wiiitis after waking up one morning with intense pain in his right shoulder.
At first Bonis was at a loss for what could have caused his soreness, but in time he realized that the only change in his lifestyle had been the recent addition of his Nintendo Wii. The doctor had spent several hours the night before playing simulated tennis, courtesy of the game "Wii Sports," which is included as a pack-in title with purchase of the console.
"If a player gets too engrossed, he may 'play tennis' for many hours," wrote Bonis, a physician with Spain's Biomedical Informatics Research Group. "Unlike in the real sport, physical strength and endurance are not limiting factors. With the growing use of this new video game system, the risk of the Wiiitis variant may be higher than that of Nintendinitis," a phrase coined in 1990 to describe cramping, usually on the right hand in the area between the thumb and the index finger, primarily caused by prolonged exposure to video game controllers (also known as "Nintendo thumb").
"Future games could involve different and unexpected groups of muscles," he continued. "Physicians should be aware that there may be multiple, possibly puzzling presentations of Wiiitis."
Bonis was convinced to submit his findings to the Journal after a friend of his — also a Wii owner — complained of similar pain in his shoulder following several hours of "Wii Sports" action. He told Reuters that he has not come across any other cases of Wiiitis in his clinical practice, "but it is probably an underdiagnosed condition."
Wiiitis is just the latest in a series of video-game-related disorders doctors have reported over the last three decades. The first was "Space Invaders wrist," which was identified in 1981 and was believed to be caused by the repetitive button-pounding the arcade game demanded.
Bonis treated his own Wiiitis by taking ibuprofen for one week; he also refrained from picking up his Wii remote during that period. He suggests playing in moderation and taking breaks from the console at the onset of physical pain to prevent the injury from occurring.