Health Scan: If you can’t beat them, join them

Games consoles can outwit couch potatoes; also in this issue: triple vaccine not connected to autism.

Young people constantly playing ordinary computer games are at considerably higher risk for obesity, but certain new game consoles may actually be good for you, according to two Israeli experts in sports medicine. Dr. Naama Constantini of the orthopedics department of Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem and head of sports medicine at Hadassah Optimal, together with the Sheba Medical Center’s Dr. Gal Dubnov-Raz suggest this in the December issue of the Hebrew-language Israeli Journal of Pediatrics.
They note that many parents worry about their young “couch potatoes,” encourage them to get out, walk the dog, play ball or ride a bicycle, but such children prefer to sit before the computer screen. However, the marketing of Sony PlayStation 2 with Eyetoy, Wii and Nintendo consoles and “dance carpets” – which require active interaction by the player – can get users out of their chairs. These devices have sensors that enable them to “play tennis,” dance or be physically active in other ways. Such activity, which has been dubbed “exergaming,” can be very beneficial, the sports medicine experts write. The movements could also be adapted for use as physiotherapy.
However, they warn that such exercise might also cause injuries; the possibilities are inflamed tendons in the hand (sometimes called Wiitis or Nintenditis), falls, being hit by the remote control, sprains, fractures, joint dislocations and even a reported case of dissection of the carotid artery!
Still, if parents fail to get their lazy and overweight children to exercise conventionally, exergaming might be the answer, they write.
Many parents refuse to take their infants for vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) because they heard about a 1998 article in The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, that drew a link between it and increased incidence of autism. An uncounted number of children have gotten these infectious diseases as a result.
Now, a dozen years later, the journal’s Web site has declared: “It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were ‘consecutively referred’ and that investigations were ‘approved’ by the local ethics committee have been proven false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.”
Pediatric neurology Prof. Alan Percy, who serves as medical director ofthe University of Alabama at Birmingham Civitan International ResearchCenter, commented the retracted study’s findings long have beenquestioned by the scientific community. “Over the years, study afterstudy had found no causal relationship between the MMR vaccine andautism,” said Percy. “The retraction should alleviate fears forparents. It underscores the safety and efficacy of vaccines, whetherthe MMR or others, and should restore the public’s confidence invaccines’ ability to ward off these very serious illnesses.”
The pediatric neurologist also said the retraction “should reaffirmconfidence in the scientific reporting system. The system of publishingscientific findings in peer-reviewed journals doeswork, and the retraction serves as a reminder that scientific findingsmust be repeatable before being accepted as scientific fact.”