Matthew: Somebody gave my eight-year-old son an Xbox for his birthday. I am afraid he will become addicted to playing it and that it will harm him and make him just sit around the house playing games all the time. I need some backup to convince my son he needs to get outside and play. Does something like an Xbox harm kids? Before I tell my son he can only play for an hour a day, I really need some proof that I’m trying to help him, not punish him. — Concerned Mom, San Diego
Well, we could send the elves to your house and have them show your son their severe cases of “Guitar Hero wrist,” as the doctors call it. Tendinitis from imitating Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page on the video game. Short of that, I’m not sure what you could say to an eight-year-old about his medical future that would impress him. Grabbing the device and hiding it might be your best bet.
It’s not to say that you’re wrong. Actually, for once, Mom is right. The Xbox and PlayStation and Wii have been around long enough for wounded players to start showing up in doctors’ offices. Sore shoulders, wrists, fingers; “gamer’s thumb”; “BlackBerry thumb” from over-texting; “cell phone elbow,” a mashed ulnar nerve from holding the phone to your ear too long; strained backs from over-Wii-ing. Our electronic gadgets have turned on us with a vengeance, and adults are as vulnerable as kids. Things are particularly bad for Wii-ers who get up from their lounge chairs and think they’re Tiger Woods. All those slack muscles will be screaming the next day. There are even accounts of broken fingers from gaming and a black eye when a Wii-er let go of the controller in some sports-induced frenzy and it whapped a bystander.
But no matter how old you are or what game you’re playing, most injuries come from repetitive stress — using the same muscle groups for hours on end, until tendons, ligaments, and muscles become inflamed. Medical studies show that the damage is particularly bad for kids under ten or so. Docs’ best guess is that the youthful tissues are not fully mature and so are more vulnerable. All medical sources recommend one hour a day, max, of gaming for all kids. Tests suggest that one hour a day doesn’t harm anyone. Sometimes the pain is bad enough that it actually forces the kid himself to limit his gaming time. That’s when a doctor should look at the situation, though a few days of rest usually repairs things.
Guitar Hero sidelined someone besides the elves. A hot-shot relief pitcher for the Detroit Tigers went to the trainer with severe pain in the wrist and forearm on his pitching side. Doc said to rest the arm completely for four weeks. Apparently the pitcher stopped playing Guitar Hero as part of his rehab within three days he was back in the lineup. The doctor could only guess that it wasn’t a pitching injury, it was a guitar injury.
Heymatt: What’s the story with Miranda in our Miranda rights? Were they named after a real woman? If so, was she a very quiet woman? — JBP, via email
Miranda wasn’t very silent, which is why everything hit the fan in the first place. Ernesto Miranda (a bloke, not a señorita) was arrested in 1963 for robbery. As long as he was at the police station anyway, I guess he figured it would be a good time to confess to a previous kidnapping and rape. Prosecutors had no trouble convicting him. Defense counsel filed an appeal, saying Miranda had not been advised that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution gave him the right to refuse to incriminate himself by confessing. In 1966 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. Miranda was retried in Arizona, omitting the confession, and he was convicted again. But his name has stuck to the disclaimer that’s read to every perp in cuffs.
Hey, Matt: Why do I have to turn down my car radio when I’m doing something like looking for an address or reading a map? But I can drive okay with the radio on. So, what’s up? — Confused, driving around Chula Vista
Waa! Waa! Waa! Sensory overload! Distraction! Distraction! Brain log-off! Memory destruct! Way too much input. And there’s plenty of neurological research to explain what’s going on. Noise (including organized noise like music) shares some brain pathways with visual information. You instinctively reach for the knob in order to concentrate on one thing at a time. Tunes, especially loud, bass-thumping numbers, increase stress hormones. If you’re partying, that cortisol and adrenaline amp is called “fun.” When you’re late for a meeting, looking for an address, it’s called “stress.” And stress interferes with short-term memory, making it even harder to find that danged house number. You turn down the volume in self-defense. Your brain thanks you.