Increasing wave of gadget injuries

PHILADELPHIA - August 12, 2010

One of the most common is nicknamed 'Blackberry Thumb.' Basically it's tendonitis or inflammation of the flexor tendon attaching to the long muscle of the thumb.

Thirteen-year-old Raquel or 'Rocki' Della got her first cell phone in 6th grade and started texting.

"Just random stuff, when you're bored you text," Della said, "When you do something exciting you text."

She tells Action News her texts totaled 200 per day until her thumbs started aching.

She went to see Dr. Leo Katolik of the Philadelphia Hand Center at Jefferson. She had previously broken her thumb playing sports and feared she'd broken it again; this time it felt different.

"She hurt in the front of her thumb in a very pinpointable area," Dr. Katolik said.

Dr. Katolik says the pain was on both hands, and he diagnosed her with tendinitis of the thumb flexor... "Blackberry Thumb." He says he's seeing more cases of it -- especially among teenage girls. The cause: too much texting.

It may sound silly but it can be painful.

Rocki had to wear splints on her hands for 6 weeks each. Even after that treatment, things are still not back to normal.

"I can't write a lot in school," Della says. "I have to put my pencil or pen down and take a break 'cuz it'll hurt when I write because it leans against it."

Dr. Katolik says prevention is simple: Stop, or at least cut down on, texting.

"You need to be friends with your friends, you need to enjoy the friends you are talking to at the moment," Della says.

Rocki Della is down to 20 texts per day and sometimes uses her pointer finger instead of her thumbs. But PDA's aren't the only new gadgets causing problems.

Eighteen-year-old Beau Whitman is an athlete and video game enthusiast. In the past he says he'd play video games 2 to 4 hours per day; all the while slouching.

"In a regular chair I used to lean forward, elbows in lap looking forward at the TV," Whitman said. "Then we have a moon chair and you just kind of lay back in it.

Valerie Brill of Excel Physical Therapy and Fitness says when Beau injured his shoulder while pole vaulting, his constant poor posture made the injury worse. She says new technology is sparking a rising trend of poor posture.

"Kids today, if you watch them, the majority of them are laying on their bed and watching this," Brill said, "Or they're sitting slouched over a computer screen. The concern is they're so young, so what's going to happen in college, adulthood."

Brill says poor posture makes people more susceptible to injuries because their back and core muscles become weak. She's helping Beau to improve his posture.

To prevent problems, Brill says parents should limit video game time to 30 minutes a day. While on the computer, kids should sit at a table in a good work position and take breaks.

Beau has cut down on his video game time and now consciously tries to sit up straight.

The tips for teens also work for adults. Experts say they're important because our bodies weren't designed to be sitting or using handheld devices as much as many people do today.

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