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Are there Medical Benefits to Video Games?
Author: Lisa Copen

Video games have always been given a modest nod of tolerance by parents who struggle to see the benefits of learning how to crash a car into a tree at 120 miles per hour. But new evidence is proving that video games have a new respect in the medical field. And if you suffer from chronic pain, you soon may be knocking on your children’s door asking, “can you show me how that controller-thingy works?”

One of the best benefits is that there are now video games like Dance Dance Revolution that can help you get physically fit. If you’ve been to a movie theater or mall lately, you may have noticed the 3-foot square platform with an arrow on each side of the square pointing up, down, left and right. The player may appear as though they have joined the toddlers in a dance along with The Wiggles, but the game does take skill. The player faces a video screen that has arrows scrolling upward to the beat of a song, and the player steps on the correlating arrow. Tempted to try it but not in a public place? The home version costs about $80 for the game and plastic dance pad and it includes a "workout mode" that actually will track how many calories you are burning.

Another study has just been released about the ability for video games to actually reduce chronic pain. A group of students from Wheeling Jesuit University reported from their study that playing sports and fighting video games produces a dramatic level of pain distraction. The students presented the results of the study, “Effects of Video Game Play Types on Pain Threshold and Tolerance,” during the University’s Seventh Annual Student Research and Scholarship Symposium, April 4, 2006. The study examined 6 genre types (action, puzzle, arcade, fighting, sport, and boxing). Sports games and fighting games were able to "produce a dramatic level of pain distraction." Some are suggestion that physicians install more video game consoles in their waiting rooms to lower the tension of upcoming surgical procedures. That seems fair, since many surgeons are now requesting Ipod players in their surgical rooms.

The video game may not help just the patient either! If you must have surgery, you should be glad to hear that your doctor actually spends some down time playing video games. Surgeons who play video games three hours a week have 27 percent fewer errors and accomplish tasks 27 percent faster, claims Dr. James Rosser Jr., a top surgeon and director of the Advanced Medical Technologies Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Rosser and his colleagues recently brought together surgeons, movie makers, and video game designers to discuss ways that better tools to train physicians can be developed. Players are hooked up with heart-rate and skin-conduction monitors on their fingers and they must calm their body and mind to make the game respond.

All good news, but don’t be surprised if your teenagers here about this news soon too. When they ask for the next PlayStation sports game and you say no, he may just respond with, “but it’s good for my health and I may even be training to be a surgeon!”

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Don't miss Lisa Copen's new consumer magazine, HopeKeepers, for people who live with chronic illness or pain and the sponsor of Invisible Illness Awareness Week. Articles, chat, groups. www.restministries.org

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