Some days, as I'm combing through the Internet and catching up on news, something interesting gets my attention. An article about video games. A catchy headline.
"PLAYING VIDEO GAMES COULD LEAD TO LIFE-THREATENING BLOOD CLOTS."
Holy shit. Is this real? I open up the New York Daily News link to check. Nope—it's just one of those articles that aggregates and sensationalizes a medical study. This particular study has determined that prolonged video game sessions should be "considered a risk factor" for blood clots, and it presents, as a case report, a man who spent eight hours a day playing PlayStation for four days in a row. To quote the medical documents:
A 31-year-old Caucasian man, an exterior painter, presented with left leg pain and swelling. He was on holiday and spent each day sitting on his bed with his legs outstretched playing PlayStation® games. He would play for seven to eight hours continuously without getting off the bed. On the second day, he developed left leg pain with associated calf swelling and erythema, but, despite increasing discomfort, continued to play video games until presenting two days later.
The report's conclusion: "Further studies are needed to estimate the degree of risk associated with prolonged periods of playing video games, and education for preventing venous thrombosis should be provided to gamers."
In other words, the New York Daily News skewed facts in order to further the easy narrative: video games are bad for you. Playing them will cause SCARY THINGS to happen. BLOOD CLOTS. If you play video games, your LIFE WILL BE THREATENED.
Yet... what we're really talking about here isn't video games; it's immobility. The medical study examined a man who spent half a week lying in the same position for eight hours a day, even after he started feeling pain in his leg—of course that's not healthy. On the list of things that are generally considered to be bad for you, "not moving for four days" is up on the top there. Concluding that the problem here is video games—when he could have pretty easily been on a Netflix binge—is nonsense. It's garbage. It's lazy writing that perpetuates an equally lazy narrative that we need to erase from the face of the planet.
Imagine that same case report had been about, say, books, because lord knows novels like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones can be just as addictive and enthralling as a good game, and sitting still for hours and hours doing nothing but reading fiction is just as harmful as binge-gaming. Now let's see how the Daily News article looks:
Books can be deadly.
An unidentified 31-year-old man developed a dangerous and potentially fatal condition after spending eight hours a day for four consecutive days reading books, according to a case study published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports.
Doctors found that the man, who complained of pain and swelling in his left leg, had deep vein thrombosis as well as multiple blood clots.
Deep vein thrombosis often occurs when someone has been sitting or remains sedentary for extended periods of time. And, if a related blood clot travels to and blocks an artery in the lungs, the condition can lead to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute estimates that, if left untreated, about 30% of patients with pulmonary embolisms will die. Experts told ABC News that other factors, such as smoking, having hormonal problems or taking birth control typically increase a person's risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.
The 31-year-old book-reader recovered, but the study authors said the link between the condition and marathon book reading sessions needs to be examined further.
"Book reading should be considered as part of the risk assessment of venous thromboembolism," the study says. "Those at risk could be advised about regular leg exercises, adequate hydration and regular breaks."
In 2011, a 20-year-old British man died from a pulmonary embolism after spending up to 12 hours a day reading fiction, ABC News reported.
"Don't stop your child from reading the books. They love doing it, it's great for them," the man's father said at the time. "Just be aware. Enjoy it, but take a break."
Books: they're deadly. STAY AWAY.