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Wii Warriors Outnumber Weekend Warriors in the Doctor’s Office

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Not long ago, one of Coach Nicole’s blogs generated a pretty interesting discussion about how playing Wii Fit games compared to “real” exercise.

Can lurching across your living room carpet, remote in hand, to return a vicious topspin forehand from your TV set ever compare to a real game of tennis, with racquet, ball, and real life opponent?

That’s a question we may have to leave to the philosophers and sports purists among us to decide.

In the meantime, though, it’s becoming pretty clear to doctors everywhere that Wii Fit sports can generate just as many sports injuries as the real thing, and probably even more. In fact, according to this article, “Wii Warriors” have been turning up in doctor’s offices lately in even greater numbers than the Weekend Warriors of earlier generations, and doctors are beginning to develop a special vocabulary to describe their problems. It’s not just “tendinitis” these days—it’s “Nintendinitis.”

Is this just because more people are using Wii Fit for exercise, or is there something about these “virtual” sports that makes them even more likely to cause injury?

According to Dr. Brian Halpern, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, it’s probably a combination of both factors. With over 10 million Wii sales in the last couple years, and 6.5 million Wii Fit on top of that, there's no doubt that "virtual exercise" is a major player on the exercise scene these days. And that's a good thing if it means more people are actually doing exercise they wouldn't do otherwise. But it's also not the whole story--injuries related to Wii Fit activities are also up.

One problem is that Wii Warriors often play games designed for large, open spaces in the confined space of their living rooms. This can lead to traumatic injuries like twisted knees and sprained ankles. You can’t run to return a shot the same way you can outdoors if there’s a wall or a dining table 5 feet away, or a bunch of kid’s toys all over the place. But that’s your natural instinct, and if you artificially limit your natural range of motion, you’re probably going to put unnatural pressures on certain muscles, ligaments, tendons, or joints, and greatly increase the risk of injuring yourself.

Another common problem is that, once people figure out that the Wii Fit remote lets you return a tennis shot or bowl a ball with just a flick of your wrist instead of the full motions required in “real life,” it’s very easy to set yourself up for problems like tennis elbow. These kinds of injuries happen exactly when you concentrate the force of a normal arm/shoulder swing into movements using only the small muscles of your forearm.

But probably the most common risk is due to simple overuse. The same convenience and ease of use that make these games so popular also make it easy to overdo things without adequate preparation. You don't need to find a partner, worry about the weather, stick to a certain schedule, or stop when your court time is up. In fact, it's so easy to get absorbed in these activities that you can easily spend a lot more time on them then you might plan.

But that doesn't mean your body can absorb all this new activity without consequences. You can't go from couch potato to Wii Fit Tennis maven or boxing champ overnight, without paying your dues, any more than you can do that in "real life" without training and practice.

How about you? Have you had any injuries or problems with Wii Fit exercise like those described above? What do you do to prepare yourself for your workouts, to avoid these problems?

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My three year old did run in front of my while I was doing a backhand return in tennis. I felt soooo bad! Needless to say I only play when he is sleeping or in the other room. Report
LOL!! HA! HA! HA!!! Are you KIDDING?!! Probably b/c people suddenly think that b/c they are not really doing the activity (snowboarding, tennis, whateves) that they can DO it! Sure you aren't going to fall & whack yourself into the snow or trip & face plant into a net but your body is still bent at the knees on a board, using your feet to turn or swinging your arms fanatically at a 'tennis ball'! But if you don't know what you are doing, you are going to get hurt!!

I just can't get into the whole wii thing, seems kindda silly to me. Why not go out & do the REAL thing? Report
To avoid injuries using Wii Fit - you must be smart!!! Report
I don't have a Wii Fit but could see myself becoming so involved that I would trip over a coffee table or our dog. LOL Becareful out there! Report
I've heard some of the injuries referred to as "nintendonitous", lol! Report
I brought my Wii to my parents' house over Thanksgiving and we played so much Wii Sports that all of us, myself in particular, had "Wii elbow!" It hurt so bad the next day after hours of tennis and bowling Report
When the disclaimer comes on the screen that states move all furniture - follow the instructions. My husband broke his hand trying to pick a split in bowling. Smacked it on a solid cedar chest we use a coffee table. The doctors and nurses found this really amusing. My husband, who happens to be chef (so his hands are is life), went through surgery and physical therapy - 100% back now but with a very small plate in his hand. For amusement, check out

I love my Wii, Last week I got Gold's Gym Cardio Workout, and played an hour the first day. I was so sore for 2 days, but it was so much fun. I have a ton of room in my living room so I don't have to worry about running into anything. I still use my Wii fit after 6 months of getting it, but only 1-2 times a week now instead of everyday when I first got it. Report
I have definitely had some soreness after using my Fit. Then again, how often do I actually keep my arms up in boxing stance during a regular session on the Elliptical. My problem is more so worrying about hitting whoever I am playing with, or the dog... Ugh. That's a scary moment. Report
I love the wii and the wii fit and so do my kids. We've not had any injuries but my husband and I have been sore after some activities. I do much worse to myself during my "real workouts" so I don't think being sore is bad, but rather a sign that you got some good out of it. My son loves the RPG games that we have and at times I have to encourage him to play wii fit or wii sports instead--I'd prefer that. We have a lot of space where we keep our wii(we planned that out), and I can't even imagine how people are throwing their controllers into their tvs. Aren't they using the wrist straps? If you don't follow the precautions you can't blame the game---just yourself. Anyway, I personally use my wii fit as an extra bonus--I work out every day besides that at the gym. But I also enjoy many of the non-active games as well.

What I think it comes down to is that people sometimes don't use common sense or caution--even when warned to. If it wasn't for the wii many people wouldn't be getting as much activity--and that's really great. And if those same people injuring themselves on the wii went out and did a "real workout" they'd probably injure themselves that way too. Report
I don't have a wiifit, but I planned on getting one. Now I would much rather be doing the real thing, instead of game mode. Report
No injury here. I use the Wii Fit daily and so do my kids. I have it up in the loft upstairs where there is plenty of room. I make sure we are dressed the part and move anything out of the way that would be in the way of any activity playing.

You just have to be careful in anything you do and be aware of your surroundings. Report
No injuries for me, and I am a daily Wii Fit user. Of course, I can see where people can be injured...just as you can while doing ANYTHING. If it wasn't for Wii & Wii Fit I would not be nearly as active as I am so count me as a big fan.

Must say I find it a little funny when people say they don't count Wii Fit as exercise when it offers many of the same things that they would consider exercise from other sources: yoga, lunges, running in place (sounds much like a treadmill to me), etc. Of course, there are some things that are more game-like (the balance 'games') and you shouldn't confuse these with vigorous exercise...still probably better for you than sitting on your butt plyaing a completely non-active game. As with all things, you have to be reasonable about how you use the tools at our disposal and be honest with yourself regarding what you put into it & what you should expect to get from it.

See ya in the Wii Fit Olympics. :-) Report
We have yet to have any injuries - I admit to sliding off the balance coard while hula-hooping with my socks on. Although I do not consider it "exercise," I do like the fact that my kids are up off the couch, getting some movement instead of sitting around. Their Wii time doesn't interfere with our family exercising (wlaking the local track, etc.) but they'd rather play Wii Sports than watch SpongeBob. For that, I like it. We use our Wii Fit 3-4 days/week. It's frustrating for my 5 year old but my 9 year old works up a sweat. Report
I only use mine for yoga and strength training....and a few of the aerobic exercises. I do see that children can spend way too much time playing them and am concerned that the perception that it is ok because it is "exercise".........when is just a little better than watching tv......and too much of anything is no good in my opinion..... Report
I have played the Wii Fit games, and I'm sure they've helped a lot of people get off the couch that wouldn't have otherwise. However, I do not really consider this an exercise. Granted it is fun to play, but I wouldn't replace it with my daily workouts. Hopefully, Nintendo has encouraged people to get up and become more active. Report
I don't personally have a Wii, because it doesn't support the kind of games I like to play (RPGs), but my grandmother and aunt both have one. It's an excellent way for my grandma to get some regular excercise, but as far as I know she hasn't had any injuries. I could definitely see the danger of getting carried away in a cramped space. In a small apartment, it's hard enough not to do regular exercises without bumping into things! Report
I can see how people could injure themselves if they're really out of shape to begin with. I've never had problems, just a little muscle soreness over using muscles I don't normally use (like my arms will be a little sore after playing baseball).

My mom has hurt her shoulder, which is already injured from something else. She has orders from the chiropractor not to play the boxing game.

So, even though it's not real, the injuries can be! Report
You can overdo it if you are not careful as with many new things you come across in life that are fun! It just takes come common sense! Report
I love our Wii fit. It gets my husband into spending active time with me! Report
My husband and I do enjoy our games, be it Wii, PS3, DS or plain old PC games. For me, I find them far more entertaining than just sitting in front of the television as I actually have to use my brains to figure out puzzles etc. Of course I still like to get out and enjoy the sunshine whenever possible - but here in the UK, the last few years have been pretty miserable weather wise!
So when the Wii first came out, we traded in an old console and all of the games that went with it and had enough in-store 'money' to get the Wii and several spare controllers without having to reach into our pockets at all.

The Wii sports game (which came free with the console) is something that almost anyone can play, from my older relatives to my little nieces & nephews (although they do often need a little instruction to start with) - and my brother in law was thrilled to finally be able to play games with his step kids, he has very limited movement in one hand so button bashing on a normal console is out of the question, but he has no problems with most of the Wii games.

Of course, with most things in life there are risks involved if you aren't careful and we did spend quite a while at parties having to ask people to step back from the TV (especially with boxing, when people get excited they tend to creep closer and closer). I do agree that when playing a game it's easy to forget that you need to be sensible, stretch and not overwork yourself, I'm going to check tonight to see if there are any warnings in the instructions!

We bought the Wii balance board with the Wii fit game as soon as it came out. It may seem an expensive buy, but it was actually not much more than a month's gym membership for the two of us (we do live in a fairly expensive area though) and means we don't have the hassle of packing up the car and driving anywhere, or having to wait for 5 minutes just to get on the bit of equipment you want to use (I've not had good experiences with gyms so please excuse me for being biased!!!!!)
We were very good with it to start - however we had a different frame of mind then and ended up using it more for fun then a serious exercise regime. Now however we're utilizing it to it's fullest. We bought a mini stepper and some dumbells from a local supermarket (very cheap) and while one of us does the wii fit, the other uses the weights & stepper. I like the fact that there are a variety of exercises - aerobic, yoga, muscle and balance games - and it's a challenge to play a little everyday in the hopes of unlocking more games or longer versions of the ones you have.

We've only been doing it or a while but I'm really enjoying it and have had no injuries (so far; touch wood I haven't jinxed myself there) which is more than I can say for my husband's weekly 5-a-side footie matches (whenever I go to support him I'm always called on to patch someone up, good thing I always carry tissues & plasters/bandaids!)

Some of the other fitness games people have suggested sound fab, I'll definitely look into them - I would also like to recommend 'Rayman - Raving Rabbids TV Party' - while a lot of it is just remote games (fun though), the dancing mini-games when played on expert (after you've got the hang of them) really work up a sweat and are hilarious to play (and watch!). It's a great way to still get a little workout when you have people round.

Well, that's enough of my babbling pro-Wii rant!

P.S. Anyone doing the jogging, keep an eye out for Mario, he's hidden somewhere in the scenery on each level! Report
In my personal experience, I've found movement related injuries to be more common in home exercise of most any type as opposed to outdoor exercise or exercise in a gym, studio, or fitness class with a qualified instructor for 2 primary reasons. One is lack of adequate space. I've gotten my share of bumps and bruises from smacking furniture even when practicing things like yoga and Pilates in tight space. The second reason is that video games and exercise DVDs don't do a very good job of adequately teaching proper form, especially in the area of preventing stress injuries. A couple of years ago I ended up with a pretty severely sprained wrist from repeated (and improper) use of 5 lb dumbells in conjuction with a DVD cardio/dance workout. Report
Unless they are giving them away for free with no strings attatched, that is a luxury for the rich, which I am not. Report
Wii Sports and the Wii Fit using the Balance Board are not the same thing! It's a bit strange to me that Coach Dean would blame Wii Fit for games that are not even IN the Wii Fit package. A bit of research, eh?
Eh... The WII! The WII! The WII!

I personally don't have one, and I don't want one. I've learned that Video games are a waste of time, while Life is dashing by.

But my brother got one, which is the reason his TV-Set broke. He accidently threw the remote into it. Report
I have used my WII every day since I got it just over a month ago. I find it challenging to try to better yourself every day. I have the WII fit and just bought the outdoor challenge. This is just as fun as the WII fit. There is jump rope, hurdles, trampoline etc and 2 people can play at the same time. Sometimes I find I probably lose just as much calories from laughing as I do from the workout. I LOVE my WII, it even goes on vacation with me when I go to visit my sister. Report
I bought a Wii fit for my birthday. I am now up and exercising most everyday.
I have also bought the Golds Gym Cardio for the Wii and the Fitness Coach.
I do get a good workout and have not hurt myself yet. I am 58 years old. I am also the caregiver for my invalid husband. I can't go out to the gym to work out or out in the neighborhood for a walk. So the Wii fit is a good fit for me.
I purchased the Wii for my son at Christmas, 2007. Then March of this year I bought the Wii Fit for myself. Now both of my sons, as well as myself, are using it and we really enjoy it. We do not, however, go overboard and are careful in the confined space of the living room. So far, none of us have been injured. I think this has been the best purchase I have ever made. I also have the Maya Fitness coach, which is strictly exercises. It is also pretty good, but not as much fun as the Wii Fit or the Wii Sports. Report
debbiek60, the wii fit does not include the tennis. It measures and keeps track of your body fat as well as weight. Yoga, Balance Games, Aerobics and strength training are included in the wii fit. Boxing is in the aerobics section. As you start to use different games and options new ones become unlocked as well as advanced ones. Help this info helps. Let me know if you have any other ?'s Report
When we first got it I used it religously daily. I lost 7 pounds in two weeks, but I also changed my eating as well. If your family is competitive than this is something that will get them off the couch. We compete to stay in the top position. I still do my regular work-outs though, this is not a substitute. Report
I don't like tennis, and it sounds like it would need more space, but I think the boxing sounds very interesting. Are these all separate games so if I wanted the boxing would I buy just that and the basic Wii system? What is included in the Wii fit? Thanks for the info. Report
We have Wii Fit and we use it mainly for fun competitions. I do however like the yoga poses and really try hard to do them correctly. I did actually hurt my side doing the hula hoop. A group of women from church met for a ladies fun night. We played the different activities for prizes. I got a little carried away doing the hula hoop and actually strained a muscle in my side. I was so embarrassed trying to explain to my doctor what I was doing and how it happened. He kept asking, " You sure no alcohol was involved?" Report
Waaaah! I want a WII! Report
My sister, who has never been in a gym, is using her wiifit every morning and sometimes again at night! Report
It's better than nothing, but not a subtitute for actual exercise!

I have one and like playing it, but I never feel like I do after I run 3 miles. Report
I actually don't have a Wii although my parents do at their house. I just am not that into video games. Given the type of active sports I do - figure skating mainly, it just does not seem like exercise to me. Report
Whenever I do boxing on the Wii Sports, I always overdoe it and end up really REALLY sore the next day, especially in shoulders and neck. I think it's just because I don't exercise often enough so my body is not used to it. Last time I made sure I stretched after and it was much better. I definetly get a great workout out of it in any case, I sweat bullets with that thing! Report
Like many of the others, I love my Wii Fit. It is something I can do, no matter the weather, or time. I do the full movements too when doing the tennis or boxing. It is great to get outdoors too though so I try to get out and do a "power walk" as often as I can, and will soon be hitting the bike trail that is conveniently only half a block from my house. Common sense is the key whatever exercise you do. Report
I'm more afraid of damaging my TV than myself. I always find myself getting closer and closer until my fists are inches away from the screen when boxing! Report
I am anti Wii so that will never be a problem for us. Plus, if one wants to exercise, all you have to do is to put one a pair of runners and pick up a humble skipping rope. As simple as that. Report
I think the advanced step may be asking for problems. At one point they have step on facing right and then left right away. I think that is asking for twisted ankles. Report
I use my WiiFit everyday. When I do the bowling, etc. I am standing up and using my entire arm. In fact, I even take steps. Any I agree with Trish_Ca that without it, I wouldn't be getting any exercise except walking. Report
I've being playing sports on Wii for a month and a half. For me it's really good exercise, but I also don't "cheat". I stand up and play and swing like I would if I was really playing. I also know that can't go out and run up and down the tennis court for go swinging at pitches for real. It's just not something that I can do right now. Does playing Wii compare to the real thing? No, but that shouldn't stop you for trying and playing like you should. Just use common sense. Report
Actually I'm one of the people that hurt myself playing Wii Sports... Made my elbow quite sore doing the boxing - I think it was from straightening my arms so hard & so fast for the punches. I think for me, its that I get so distracted by the game that I don't pay attention to how I'm actually moving. Until later when it hurts to straighten my arms...

But the truth is, using the Wii is exercise I wouldn't be getting otherwise. And its fun, and I don't find a lot of exercise options to be fun. Report
This seems pretty silly to me... just use common sense and be careful about all activity. These must be the same people who need to be reminded not to use the curling iron in the tub! Report
Interesting. I wonder how many of those 6.5 million actually use their wii fit? Report
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