Gamers Thrombosis: How playing too long can be dangerous

Advice for preventing dangerous blood clots during video game marathons

DVT blog

During long holidays and snow days, it’s tempting to use the time playing video games. With online players in different time zones, the urge is strong to play for hours and hours. But doctors warn of a health risk of playing too long in the virtual landscape: gamers thrombosis.

University of Michigan Emergency Medicine physician Dr. Steven Kronick says there’s a rise in cases of gamers thrombosis, blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that result from inactivity during game play.

“Gaming can be distracting and the hours can just melt away,” says Dr. Kronick. “Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for developing venothromboembolic disease or blood clots. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting on a very long air flight or on your living room couch. It’s the same mechanism.”

What is DVT?

DVT is a dangerous and sometimes deadly condition in which blood clots develop within leg veins. These clots have the potential to break away and travel through the bloodstream to a vital organ, such as the lungs. This condition is called pulmonary embolism.

Usually, DVT strikes when people are immobilized for too long — for example, during a long car ride or a plane trip. In other words, during extended periods of inactivity.

A growing pastime

There’s cause for growing concern as interest in gaming increases. More than half of U.S. households have a  dedicated game console and 42 percent of Americans play video games regularly.

NPD Group reveals that mobile gamers — those who play on a smartphone, iPod touch or tablet — are playing more often, and for longer periods of time than they were two years ago. The average time spent playing in a typical day has increased 57 percent to over two hours per day in 2014 versus one hour and 20 minutes in 2012.

The incidence of DVT among gamers includes a 31-year-old man who developed DVT after playing PlayStation® games for almost eight hours a day for four consecutive days and a 20-year-old female gamer who was diagnosed with DVT after 40 hours of continuous play. Although these examples are extreme, one report suggests the incidence of DVT among the under-15 age group has risen by nearly 100 percent in the last five years.

Take time out

UMHSAirlineInfographicTo prevent blood clots, Dr. Kronick advises patients to flex their feet and the muscles in their legs often, get up and walk around every one or two hours and drink plenty of fluids.

The website take-time-out.info advises gamers to sit comfortably with feet raised using a footstool and to set an alarm as a reminder to take time out from gaming.

Take the next step:

Read more about deep vein thrombosis.

Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.