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Games distract children with cancer from pain, study suggests

British Medical Journal reports.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

While videogames continue to dominate headlines in the United States for all the wrong reasons, an article in the British Medical Journal this week highlights several examples of the medium's therapeutic potential, reporting that children suffering from cancer and other severe conditions were actually distracted from their pain by videogames under test conditions.

Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, said that patients distracted by games had "less nausea and lower systolic blood pressure than [control patients] (who were simply asked to rest) after treatment and needed fewer analgesics."

Griffiths wrote: "games focus attention away from potential discomfort and, unlike more traditional, therapeutic activities, they do not rely on passive movements and sometimes painful manipulation of the limbs."

One example he cited of the benefits of playing videogames concerned an eight year-old boy who continually picked at his face, leading to scarring on his upper lip. "Previous treatments had failed so the boy was given a hand held video game to keep his hands occupied. After two weeks the affected area had healed."

The report warned that more research was required to better establish the negative aspects of play, many of which were named, but said that, "there is little evidence that moderate frequency of play has serious acute adverse effects."

The full report can be found on the British Medical Journal website.

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