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Wii games cause "bystander injuries"

Some players are out of controller.

With Nintendo's Wii has arrived a new kind of videogame injury caused by the carefree swing of a motion-sensing Wiimote: "bystander injuries". And those particularly at risk are children, a new study has found.

An American Academy of Paediatrics study presented at a San Francisco conference detailed how, over a five year period between 2004 and 2009, interactive games - mostly Wii games (reports the BBC) - were responsible for 92 injuries. As well as cuts and bruises, patients were more likely to have hurt shoulders, ankles and feet. There are even records of broken ankles from Wii balance board-related tumbles and head injuries from overzealous playing partners.

Smashed televisions were a well publicised problem when Wii launched in December 2006, and forced Nintendo to introduce a gel Wiimote cover and "re-evaluate" the flimsy Wiimote wrist strap.

Lead author of the study, Patrick O'Toole, told MedPage Today that, "Younger children under the age of 10 should be supervised while videogames are being played to prevent bystander injuries which are more common with interactive games."

A Nintendo spokesperson, talking to the BBC, countered: "As with any new activity, people playing the Wii system should pace themselves and not overdo it." She added that instructions should be followed, breaks taken and "excessive and forceful" actions avoided.

Yet despite the fabulously dramatic nature of Wii-related injuries, Nintendo's motion-sensing console is a far lesser evil than traditional console gaming. During that same five year period, 604 injuries were accounted to "prolonged constant viewing of the screen and sitting tensely". The injuries were more severe, too, and included 65 seizures, eight cases of visual disturbance or eye pain and around 23 neck injuries.

"Many people play [traditional] games for much longer periods of time than exergames," chimed-in boffin Greg Norman from the University of California to the MedPage Today.

"Many of the exergames that I have experienced have short bouts of play with breaks in between levels and games. This may actually help players of exergames avoid the injuries of traditional video games."

"I have seen some close calls in my own home with my children," he added. "It shows that these games do need supervision when played by children."

Nevertheless, the chances of you injuring yourself while playing are slim: one in millions. But if you do come a cropper, please let us know - and maybe take a picture for the website too.

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Robert Purchese

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Bertie is a synonym for Eurogamer. Writes, podcasts, looks after the Supporter Programme. Talks a lot.