Sylviana Hamdani (The Jakarta Post)
Mon, May 1, 2023
People often lose track of time when playing video games, which can lead to health problems. Indonesian doctors are looking at ways to help them avoid developing illness or injury while pursuing their passion.
“We gamers rarely look at the time when we’re playing,” says Indonesian e-athlete Diky, 29, who also goes by Tuturu. “We can easily spend 12 hours in front of the computer without knowing.”
This lifestyle can take a physical toll on gamers of all levels. In 2020, Diky resigned from Indonesia’s Mobile Legends Professional League (MPL) because of searing pain and tingling sensations in the fingers, palm and wrist of his right hand that extended to his shoulder and back.
“It was so painful that [my right hand and arm] often went numb,” the e-athlete told a press conference held on April 5 by digital game platform Coda Indonesia at the Greyhound Café on Jl. Gunawarman in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta.
A doctor later diagnosed Diky with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a disorder that occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the fingertips, becomes compressed at the wrist.
“Many gamers, as well as those who work a lot on the computer, experience carpal tunnel syndrome,” said Erica Kholinne, an orthopedist with the Sports Medicine, Injury and Recovery Center (SMIRC) at Pondok Indah Hospital-Bintaro Jaya.
Eye health: Kianti Raisa Darusman, an ophthalmologist at Pondok Indah Hospital-Bintaro Jaya, says that following the 20-20-20 rule can help prevent dry eye disease. (JP/Sylviana Hamdani) (JP/Sylviana Hamdani)
A more thorough examination at the SMIRC discovered that scoliosis was the main cause of Diky’s condition.
“[Scoliosis] doesn’t happen overnight,” Erica explained. “It usually results from maintaining a bad posture for years.”
The avid gamer conceded this was so. “When gaming, my posture was just awful,” Diky admitted. “I often slumped in the chair and hunched [my back] for hours. I think that must have caused the scoliosis.”
CTS and scoliosis are two of the most common health issues that plague e-athletes and gamers who spend many hours in front of a computer.
In collaboration with the SMIRC, Coda Indonesia is currently running a research program called #MainSehatBarengCoda to study health issues among gamers.
“There hasn’t been any scientific study or research [done] on the wellbeing of gamers and e-athletes in Indonesia before,” said Rurie Wuryandari, corporate affairs director at Coda Indonesia. “In this program, we will explore the medical problems that gamers and e-athletes in this country face, and recommend ways to prevent and treat [the health issues] when they happen.”
Several medical experts who are participating in the study spoke to The Jakarta Post about some of the most prevalent health issues among Indonesian gamers.
Neck and shoulder pain
Neck and shoulder pain affects 86 percent of gamers as a result of bad posture.
“Basically, you can injure yourself when you go over your [physical] capacity,” said Andi Kurniawan, a sports medicine physician at the SMIRC.
“To prevent injury, you have to improve your physical condition by exercising regularly.”
Andi suggests doing chin tucks before and in between gaming sessions to avoid neck pain.
The exercise is quite simple: Place a forefinger on your chin, and then lower your chin. Keep your chin lowered for 3 seconds before returning to the normal position. Repeat 10 times.
Promoting gamer health: E-athlete Diky (left), who also goes by Tuturu, is working with Erica Kholinne, an orthopedist at Pondok Indah Hospital-Bintaro Jaya’s Sports Medicine, Injury and Recovery Center (SMIRC), to help improve the health and wellbeing of Indonesian gamers through the #MainSehatBarengCoda research program, which is supported by digital game platform Coda Indonesia. (JP/Sylviana Hamdani) (JP/Sylviana Hamdani)
To prevent shoulder pain, exercising the muscles along the sides of the neck connecting to the shoulders, or levator scapulae, can help.
A simple exercise routine for this involves rotating the shoulders 10 times. After this, turn your head to the left and then to the right.
Finally, place your left hand behind your head and gently pull it forward and to the left. Keep your head in this position for 20 seconds. Switch to your right hand and repeat, this time pulling your head forward and to the right. Repeat 20 times for maximum results.
CTS and scoliosis
Ergonomics is very important if you spend a lot of time at the computer.
“To help prevent CTS, you should use a mouse pad with wrist support,” advised orthopedist Erica.
To prevent scoliosis, use a chair that provides good lower back support, or lumbar support, and also has a headrest
Regular exercise also helps to maintain good posture and overall health.
“Simple gym exercises, such as lat pulldowns and barbell lifts, can also help prevent upper extremity injury,” Erica suggested.
Lat pulldowns target the latissimus dorsi, the broad back muscles extending from the spine to behind the upper arm, while barbell lifts exercise other major muscle groups in the upper body.
Dry eye, double vision
Gaming for hours can lead to dry eye disease, in which the tear ducts do not produce enough tears to lubricate the eyes. Left untreated, this could lead to eye inflammation, corneal abrasion (scratches on the eye’s surface) and corneal ulcers (open sores on the eye), and even vision loss.
“The longer you stare at the screen, the less you blink,” said Kianti Raisa Darusman, an ophthalmologist at Pondok Indah Hospital-Bintaro Jaya, explaining how dry eye develops.
To alleviate the condition, gamers should follow the 20-20-20 rule of staring at something 20 feet (6 meters) away for 20 seconds for every 20 minutes they spend looking at a computer screen.
“Looking in the distance relaxes the eyes,” Kianti said.
She also suggested one home remedy: applying a warm compress to the eyes for 5 to 10 minutes, twice a day.
“Apply a warm compress, around 40 degrees Celsius, on your eyelids every morning before starting the day and every night just before going to bed. This helps alleviate the condition,” said Kianti.
Looking at a computer screen for hours also strains the medial rectus, the muscles that move the eyes from side to side.
Doing so “overworks these muscles and causes them to spasm”, Kianti explained. “As a result, you might develop double vision.”
Following the 20-20-20 rule can also help alleviate this condition.
“If possible, take your breaks outdoors so your eyes can look at multidimensional objects while you exercise to reduce neck and shoulder pain,” she suggested.
“You see, health issues are connected. It takes a holistic approach to improve your wellbeing,” Kianti added
Taking Omega 3, vitamin A, and vitamin C supplements also help gamers improve their vision and general health.
As for Diky, his health has greatly improved after months of physical therapy.
“Before, I never gave much thought to my body,” the e-athlete said.
“But now, I’m committed to keeping it healthy. [My body] is my greatest asset.”
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