Next time your child's leading the Raiders to the Super Bowl in the latest incarnation of "Madden NFL" or singlehandedly defeating an army of monsters in "God of War III," take a look at his posture.
Is his head leaning forward? Shoulders rounded? That type of poor posture was seen over and over again in a recent study of video gamers conducted by Glinn & Giordano Physical Therapy.
Physical therapists looked at a group of 45 children between the ages of 5 to 15 as they played a video game for five minutes, said W. Brian Monroe, doctor of physical therapy and orthopedic certified specialist at Glinn & Giordano. The data is still being analyzed, but the preliminary findings are that their posture became worse as the five minutes wore on and that children sitting in chairs had better posture both at the start and finish than did those sitting on the floor.
Parents should monitor their childrens' posture while they're playing, he said. In addition to a forward-leaning head and rounded shoulders, the lower back of players tended to round forward, Monroe said.
"I definitely recommend sitting in a chair with feet flat on the ground and back support," Monroe said.
The study was conducted in partnership with Cal State Bakersfield's Department of Physical Education & Kinesiology. Jeff Moffit, chairman of the department, said the preliminary findings didn't surprise him.
"Children or adults, the more time they spend in one position, they're more likely to regress to the least energy-demanding position," Moffit said.
With as many hours as some children spend playing video games, there's the potential for postural problems later in life, he said.
The final analysis of the study should be complete in two to four weeks. Monroe said he doesn't think any other studies have been done concerning video games and posture, and he wanted to conduct one because of the popularity of the various console systems.
Some games, including the mega-popular "Grand Theft Auto" and "Call of Duty" series, have sold millions of copies. Market research company The NPD Group reported U.S. retail sales of video games -- including portable and console hardware, software and accessories -- generated revenues of more than $19 billion in 2009.
Monroe said he's read statistics that say 1.6 million children are playing video games at any given minute. That's a lot of children sitting in front of the TV with a controller in their hands and eyes glued to the action on the screen.
There may be nothing wrong with children taking some leisure time to raid a castle and rescue prisoners, or going behind enemy lines and assassinating an evil dictator. Just make sure they're sitting up straight while they complete their mission.