Home computer games such as driving simulators that incorporate "vibration feedback" can cause injuries similar to those inflicted by pneumatic drills, say doctors.
A team from Liverpool Children's Hospital noted that a boy in their care showed many of the signs of "vibration white finger", an industrial disease usually associated with people who operate drills or hand-held mine equipment. The boy had been playing driving games for up to seven hours a day on a Sony PlayStation, which over two years had led to his hands becoming white and swollen in the cold, and then red and painful when they warmed up.
The new ailment, which might be called "vibration hands", joins a long list already identified among children playing console games: joystick digit, mouse elbow, and a blister in the centre of the palm from rotating the joystick of a Nintendo game in the middle of the hand.
Reporting in the British Medical Journal today, the doctors at the hospital said that while the time the boy spent playing the game "is excessive and exceeds the manufacturer's recommendations ... we must assume that this is not an uncommon occurrence".
The doctors noted the possible need for health warnings specifically on vibration devices. Although games companies warn children and parents in documentation of the dangers of photo-epilepsy – when children who are prone to seizures can have them brought on by playing certain sorts of games – they have no warnings specifically about risks from vibration systems. A spokesman for Sony said: "We will look at any report with interest."
Hand-arm vibration syndrome, as it is officially known, was recognised as an industrial disease in 1985, and has led to millions of pounds in payouts to people affected through their work. What seems unlikely is that children or parents could claim against console manufacturers if they developed the condition.