Video Games: A Risk Factor for Venous Thromboembolism

A Tragic Incident: “Gamer’s Thrombosis” Claims a Life

In 2004, the gaming community was struck by a heart-wrenching incident that shed light on the potential dangers of excessive gaming. A 24-year-old man lost his life to what is now known as “Gamer’s thrombosis” – venous thromboembolism (VTE) resulting from playing an internet computer game for a staggering 80 consecutive hours. This unfortunate event served as a wake-up call, prompting a closer examination of the link between video games and VTE. 

The Alarming Reality: Gaming and its Impact on Venous Thromboembolism

Fast forward to 2013, and another chilling case emerges, reinforcing the concerns surrounding the relationship between video games and VTE. A 31-year-old man found himself seeking medical attention after experiencing pain and swelling in his leg. His confession raised eyebrows – he had been indulging in PlayStation gaming while lying in bed for eight hours a day, four days in a row. Although the pain and swelling started on the second day, he continued gaming for another two days before realizing the severity of his condition. 

What is Venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) refers to a condition characterized by the formation of blood clots, also known as thrombi, within the veins. It encompasses two related conditions: deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the legs, pelvis, or arms. The clot can impede blood flow, causing pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the affected area. In some cases, a DVT may not present any noticeable symptoms.

Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot breaks free from its original location, usually in the deep veins of the legs, and travels to the lungs. The clot can block one of the arteries in the lungs, disrupting blood flow and potentially leading to severe respiratory and cardiovascular complications. Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may include sudden onset of shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing blood, rapid heart rate, and fainting.

Gaming Habits on the Rise: A Concern for VTE

While these isolated incidents shed light on the looming issue of prolonged and intense gaming habits, the average video game player in the US spends a considerable 13 hours per week immersed in their favorite virtual worlds. However, there is a subset of gamers known as “extreme gamers” who take their passion to the next level, dedicating 48.5 hours a week to gaming. With the gaming industry constantly expanding and attracting more enthusiasts, the number of unfortunate medical events

 is only expected to rise in the foreseeable future. This increase in gaming habits raises significant concerns about the potential risks of VTE. 

Unveiling the Risk Factors: Prolonged Immobility and Psychological Stress

To understand the dangers associated with prolonged gaming and VTE, a case study highlighted several risk factors. Prolonged immobility, inherent in extended periods of uninterrupted gameplay, is a significant risk factor for the development of VTE. When gamers spend hour after hour sedentary, blood flow slows down, and the risk of blood clots forming in the veins increases. Additionally, previous research indicates that exposure to violent video games can induce a physiological stress response, leading to increased blood pressure and heart rate. This acute psychological stress may contribute to a hypercoagulable state, further elevating the risk of VTE.

Recent research has shed light on Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) and its potential consequences, particularly when it comes to fatalities occurring during gaming sessions. While sporadic media reports have highlighted such cases, there has been a lack of systematic scientific study on the subject. To address this gap, a study was conducted to examine common characteristics, the connection between gaming and death, and potential reasons behind these fatalities.

The study analyzed a total of 24 cases, dating from 1982 to 2021, with the majority occurring between 2002 and 2021. Of these cases, 23 victims were male and their ages ranged from 11 to 40 years old. Approximately half of the incidents took place in Southeast Asia, with 12 deaths occurring in internet cafes. The gamers involved predominantly played action-rich multiplayer games. In 18 instances, the gaming session prior to death was exceptionally long, lasting for approximately a day or even multiple days with minimal breaks. The cause of death varied, with pulmonary embolism identified in five cases, cerebral hemorrhage in two cases, and fatal cardiac arrhythmia suspected in the majority of the other cases.

A Doctor’s Advice: Promoting Movement in Gaming to Prevent VTE

In light of these concerning findings, Dr. Alan Lucerna, assistant director of the emergency department at Jefferson Health-Stratford in Stratford, NJ, recently diagnosed a case of VTE and emphasized the need for preventive measures. Dr. Lucerna recommends games that promote movement and physical activity to mitigate the risk of VTE. Encouraging gamers to take breaks, move around, and engage in exercises or activities that counteract the sedentary nature of gaming could be instrumental in preventing VTE.

Ensuring the Health of Avid Gamers

The relationship between video games and venous thromboembolism is an area of growing concern. The tragic incidents of “Gamer’s thrombosis” highlight the potential risks associated with prolonged and intense gaming sessions. As gaming habits continue to rise, it becomes even more crucial to raise awareness about the risk factors and implement strategies to minimize the likelihood of VTE occurrence. By promoting movement and physical activity within the gaming community, we can help ensure the health and well-being of allgamers.

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