To help parents and players of all ages prevent Pokémon Go! related injuries, DISC Sports & Spine Center (DISC) has issued a list of helpful, common-sense recommendations. These tips were compiled by Dr. Hooman M. Melamed, an orthopedic spine surgeon who frequently shares his expertise on “The Doctors,” “Dr. Oz” and many national and local news networks.
“The most common Pokémon Go! injuries we’re learning about are fractures, bruises and abrasions resulting from falls and collisions,” says Dr. Melamed. “But the hunched-over position most players assume while peering into their phones can also take its toll on the cervical spine after prolonged periods.”
He further explains that this position puts an equivalent of 60 pounds of pressure on the spine and not only keeps you from truly seeing where you’re going, but can also lead to pinched nerves and chronic pain—all of which is completely preventable.
To help avoid injury while playing Pokémon Go!, follow these common-sense tips:
1. Keep Your Head Up – For all of the reasons above and many more, this is #1. You simply cannot navigate safely when your eyes are focused downward. Though it may seem counterintuitive at first, and take some time to get used to, try raising your phone to eye level and just to the right or left. This will keep your center of vision straight ahead and relieve unneeded pressure to the cervical spine. It helps to keep your spine in a neutral alignment and ultimately protect the health of your neck.
2. Give Yourself Breaks – This is sound advice when participating in any repeated motion, whether it’s holding up a phone, reading or running around a park in pursuit of Pokémon. Remember to pace yourself, stretch, hydrate and eat. And try stepping off to the side while hunting creature in crowded areas. Take a beat to let people pass while you catch a breath and take in your surroundings.
3. Get the Lay of the Land – Do as much prep as possible if your pursuit takes you to a new place. Try learning its terrain, exits and available services before you arrive, and if that’s not possible, take a good look at where you are before you delve into the game, when distraction may keep you from spotting potential obstacles or other dangers.
4. Dress for Success – Protect yourself from potential injury by dressing the part. In other words, wear well-fitted, comfortable shoes if you’re doing a lot of walking. Flip-flops are your worst enemies on uneven ground. Dress in layers to adapt to varying climates, and bring a lightweight backpack stocked with snacks and water if you’re making a day of it.
5. Bring a Designated Walker – Distracted walking—just like driving—is akin to drunk walking. Try bringing a non-gaming friend or family member to help guide and keep you on track. Not only are you typically safer in pairs, but it’s usually also a lot more fun when someone else gets to share in your delight as you catch that rare Dragonite or Porygon.