Long Gaming Sessions and Related Health Risks

As you know I recently published my Fit4WOTFit4Life article and created some exercises you can do whilst gaming. The main reason for this is so we can maintain some form of a healthy lifestyle whilst enjoying our hobby. If we don’t try and be healthy then we can contract a number of different conditions. This is probably the main one to effect gamers on the whole.

DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) is also known as the silent killer, the problem is that 80% of the time it gives no warning signs or symptoms (although there are some), it is also one of the more preventable conditions you can acquire from long term gaming.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg.

Blood clots that develop in a vein are also known as venous thrombosis. DVT usually occurs in a deep leg vein, a larger vein that runs through the muscles of the calf and the thigh. It can cause pain and swelling in the leg and may lead to complications such as pulmonary embolism. This is a serious condition that occurs when a piece of blood clot breaks off into the bloodstream and blocks one of the blood vessels in the lungs.

If symptoms do occur they can include:

  • pain, swelling and tenderness in one of your legs (usually your calf)

  • a heavy ache in the affected area

  • warm skin in the area of the clot

  • red skin, particularly at the back of your leg below the knee

The two main complications of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are pulmonary embolism and post-thrombotic syndrome.

Pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism is the most serious complication of DVT. It happens when a piece of blood clot (DVT) breaks off and travels through your bloodstream to your lungs, where it blocks one of the blood vessels. In severe cases this can be fatal.

If the clot is small, it might not cause any symptoms. If it's medium-sized, it can cause chest pain and breathing difficulties. A large clot can cause the lungs to collapse, resulting in heart failure, which can be fatal.

About one in 10 people with an untreated DVT develops a severe pulmonary embolism.

Post-thrombotic syndrome

If you've had a DVT, you may develop long-term symptoms in your calf known as post-thrombotic syndrome. This affects around 20-40% of people with a history of DVT.

If you have DVT, the blood clot in the vein of your calf can divert the flow of blood to other veins, causing an increase in pressure. This can affect the tissues of your calf and lead to symptoms, including:

  • calf pain

  • swelling

  • a rash

  • ulcers on the calf (in severe cases)

When a DVT develops in your thigh vein, there's an increased risk of post-thrombotic syndrome occurring. It's also more likely to occur if you're overweight or if you've had more than one DVT in the same leg.

It is very important to understand that when a gamer acquires a DVT it is usually because more than one risk is present, Gaming combines several of these risks and what might seem a completely normal set of circumstances can put you at very high risk.

DVT can affect anyone but you are more at risk as a gamer if:

  • You are an especially tall or a short person

  • You are overweight.

  • You are pregnant

  • You use the Oral Contraceptive Pill

  • Recent surgery, especially hips and knees

There are a number of other factors that can attribute to DVT, and these are more common in our everyday lives. Especially if these factors relate to you, for example you come home from a day at work where you have been sat down all day and then game for some considerable time, or spend all day everyday over the weekend gaming.

  • Being Immobile for long periods of time (90 minutes gaming Max – move away from the pc, game station and move around for at least 10 mins)

  • Sitting in an office type chair (with your body in an S shape)

  • Kneeling or Sat on your legs whilst gaming (this is very dangerous as it restricts your circulation)

  • Take off your socks (especially if the elastic is tight)

  • Being Dehydrated (water is the best drink)

  • Drinking Alcohol or Coffee before or during gaming (causes dehydration)

  • Drinking High Energy Caffeine Drinks to keep going whilst gaming (highly dehydrating)

  • Team Games/Peer Pressure to play longer

  • The belief that "It wont happen to me"

What you can do to avoid risk but still enjoy Gaming?

Well, the most important thing is to make sure you remain mobile during gaming sessions, be sure to keep moving your feet to tension the muscles in your calves, this is your second heart and these muscles keep the blood moving in this area preventing pooling and clotting. I advise you to sit comfortably with your feet slightly raised up, for example; by using a foot stool. You could also ensure you don’t wear tight fitting socks, these can reduce blood flow. Make sure you always get up and move around after no more than each 90 minute session, stretch, take a walk, go and get a drink of water, make a sandwich, keep moving, 10/15 minutes movement should be sufficient. Don’t be affected by anything that anyone else may say in a team game about you having to step away, just do it.

All I am doing is trying to raise an awareness for you, it more than likely will not happen, but don’t be under the impression that it wont happen, that would be a mistake.

Stay healthy and good luck on the battlefield.

(Information researched from TakeTimeOut website and NHS website)

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