Bowling injury

In the old days, kids got sprained ankles, cracked ribs and chipped teeth playing actual sports like basketball, baseball and football. But with the advent of video games, now even relative couch potatoes are coming down with ailments like Gamer’s Thumb, Stylus Finger and Raver’s Wrist.

(Raver’s Wrist, by the way is an injury sustained while holding glow sticks during a rave, a fast-paced dance party. Experts say the best way to avoid Raver’s Wrist is to stick to waltzes.)

Doctors have a name for this stuff: repetitive stress disorder - caused by repeating a particular task or maneuver too often. It results in pain and numbness in the overstressed extremity.

Most of us have heard of Carpal Tunnel - although some people think it’s yet another plan for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. In fact, it’s a syndrome that occurs when the median nerve is compressed in the wrist - like when someone spends a lot time banging away on a computer keyboard. It’s a sort of modern-day writer’s cramp.

I walked into a neighborhood coffee joint last week and noticed that the barista's left eye was swollen shut and he had a large bandage over his cheek.

“What happened to you?” I asked. He replied sheepishly,” It’s a bowling injury.”

Bowling? I thought the worst that could happen at a bowling alley would be dropping a ball onto a toe - or maybe getting a pinkie caught in the hand dryer.

But perhaps the most pernicious new repetitive stress injury comes from a device that even President Obama carries with him: The Blackberry.

Text messaging on one relies almost exclusively on the use of one’s thumbs, not fingers - and overuse can result in a malady called Blackberry Thumb, causing thumb-numbness. I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty saying ‘thumb-numbness’ even once - much less five times fast.

Doctors say that thumbs simply weren’t designed for rapid, repetitive movements like typing on a Blackberry. Thumbs were designed for giving a sign of approval - and for thumbing your nose at the establishment.

They are also occasionally used for sticking into pies and pulling out plums. Without the thumb, most authorities believe that finger-snapping would be nearly impossible - thus spoiling one of the best dance numbers in West Side Story.

I recently read the advice of a professor whose title is Director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University. Typing his title alone can give a person Blackberry Thumb.

So what is his advice to people using Blackberries? “Limit yourself to yes or no answers,” he says. So for example, if someone sends you a text message reading: “I’m stuck on a crossword puzzle. Can you think of an 11-letter word meaning “tummy?” - you should reply with “No.”

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