Game-over with prolonged periods of immobility.
Crush injury from bull riding, concussion from football, collision injury from auto racing. For adrenaline junkies, there are real life-threatening hazards of chasing that rush. With the rise of Esports, there’s another potentially fatal consequence of play to add to the list: deep venous thrombosis (DVT).
Every now and then, we hear heartbreaking stories about young, otherwise healthy individuals who after a prolonged period of gaming, develop leg pain and later die in the emergency room. The death (as in the case of a large blood clot breaking off to result in a massive pulmonary embolism) may be instantaneous but its development is insidious. Unlike the injuries of high impact sports which share a commonality of momentum, it is the lack of movement that results in extreme gamers’ DVTs. The vein clots develop as a consequence of vessel dysfunction, pro-clotting state, and low or no blood flow, as often happens in immobility. In fact, the association between prolonged sitting and DVT was first recognized during the London Blitz in WWII when a Dr. Simpson reported deaths from pulmonary embolism in people spending hours sitting in air-raid shelters. Today, it’s recognized that in addition to other risk factors associated with DVTs (i.e. having cancer, genetic predisposition for clots, being on hormone therapy with estrogen, etc) any long period of immobility may put us at risk for DVTs. Prolonged air travel has been well recognized as an important risk factor for venous thrombosis. One case control study showed that prolonged work and computer related seated immobility (defined as sitting for at least two hours at a time without getting during a minimum of a 10 hour period) was associated with a nearly 3 fold increase in risk of DVTs.
Since immobility encourages venous blood clots, a simple way to discourage clot formation is to move. Get up and walk around every 1-2 hours. Make sure to stay hydrated to ensure frequent trips to the bathroom. If mobility every 2 hours is not an option, simply doing a set of 10 foot pumps (raising the foot and holding it for a few seconds as if about to step on the gas) every half hour is better than doing nothing at all.
Sure, no one wants to break from a game, especially when the momentum is just right and the adrenaline is pumping. But rest assured, if a DVT develops, the adrenaline rush will follow us all the way to the emergency room.