5 Injury Prevention Tools Desk Workers Can Use Right Now

Pro-gamers and office computer users have more in common than you'd think — at least in their injury risk profiles. One surgeon is sharing tools that will help them both.
By: | June 21, 2019

No surprise that you won’t find any desk job listed among the many lists that rank the most dangerous jobs in the country. But sitting at a desk staring at a screen all day is a practice that comes with its share of health and injury risks — a fact not lost on one sector of the screen economy: Professional gamers.

During a recent video game convention in Los Angeles, Inverse reporters spoke with doctors and gamers about the risks of excess screen time, as well as the strategies they suggest to help build up the injury resilience for workers in any industry tied to screens.

Are the Risks Actually that Serious?

Sitting for hours per day is linked to heart disease and diabetes among other issues. Meanwhile the glaring blue light of electronic screens has been shown to have negative effects on sleep, and can exacerbate conditions that cause blindness. On top of that, phones and tablets are the source of the always-on work culture that’s been link to serious mental health risks.

But the most direct injury risks for screen and keyboard users are injuries to hands and arms. Top gamers can perform a mind-boggling 10 movements per second. Office professionals aren’t likely to reach that level, but they can certainly benefit from some of the same warm-ups and stretches that keep gamers nimble and pain-free, said Dr. Levi Harrison, a California orthopedic surgeon and self-branded “esports doctor.”

Try These Right Now

Stretches and warm-ups help increase blood flow, which prevents stiffening and reduces the risk of injury. Warming up for a day at the keyboard begins with basic stretches to prevent two common injuries: lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, and the notorious carpal tunnel syndrome.

VIDEO: Dr. Levi Harrison’s advice for pro-gamers can also help reduce injury risk for any computer user.

Harrison recommends that gamers and computer users do some of these exercises for about five minutes, ideally once every hour.

1) Basic stretches: Pointing your arms out straight, flex the wrist either upward or downward, and pulling back gently on the hand, holding for 30 seconds.

2) Queen’s Wave: Keeping your arms extended, fingers pointed upwards, shake the wrist back and forth 10 times. For fuller motion, you can also rotate your hands in a circle, 10 times in each direction, with a fist or an open hand.

3) Wrist Rotations: Rotate your fist or your open hand 10 times in each direction.

4) Gliding exercises: Harrison developed a specific set of movements that target both nerves and tendons in the hand, designed to prevent carpal tunnel issues. The four-part move involves holding the fist in a claw position, a “tabletop position,” a half-fist and a full fist.

5) A Dose of Warmth: Harrison encourages people to run warm water over their hands or wrists periodically, just to keep things loose.

Is there more?

Harrison’s YouTube channel houses a range of videos demonstrating his recommendations for hand and wrist-saving stretches. Harrison also address other conditions that can impact gamers and computer users alike, including eye strain and lower back pain. &

Michelle Kerr is Workers' Compensation Editor and National Conference Chair for Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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