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Handhelds Hardware

Could Your Blackberry Be Damaging Your Thumbs? 234

Sammy at Palm Addict writes "According to the BBC, Regular Blackberry use 'could damage thumbs', experts warn. Trendy handheld Blackberry devices could cause damage to users' thumbs, doctors are warning. Sales of the £200 gadget, which can be used to email, page and phone, have boomed in recent years with celebrities such as David Beckham using them. But US and UK doctors said repetitive use could cause arthritis or harm tendons in the thumb. Research in Motion, which manufactures the Blackberry, said it would not comment on the claims."
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Could Your Blackberry Be Damaging Your Thumbs?

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  • Thumb Damage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:45PM (#11531175) Homepage Journal
    According to the BBC, Regular Blackberry use 'could damage thumbs', experts warn. ... But US and UK doctors said repetitive use could cause arthritis or harm tendons in the thumb.

    And years ago I got a GyroMouse which required the right thumb to press mouse buttons and was definitely less strain that the index finger pushing down all the time. Maybe I should be glad I'm back to an old-stlye mouse. Meanwhile, how about millions of people using their thumbs on all those Game Boys and such? Are we headed for an epidemic of arthritic thumbs? It could make tobacco settlements look tame.

    celebrities such as David Beckham using them.

    He doesn't need his thumbs anyway.

    • by kylegordon ( 159137 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:50PM (#11531251) Homepage
      He doesn't need his thumbs anyway.
      Isn't his brain in one of them?
    • by d34thm0nk3y ( 653414 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @03:08PM (#11531463)
      uhh....yes. Do I get a prize?

      Seriously though. I love these "could x be harmful?" articles, the answer is always yes. If you do too much of ANYTHING it will be harmful. With that out of the way maybe we can stop jumping up and down and screaming what about the children every time one of these articles comes out...
    • Re:Thumb Damage (Score:3, Informative)

      by fireduck ( 197000 )
      Meanwhile, how about millions of people using their thumbs on all those Game Boys and such? Are we headed for an epidemic of arthritic thumbs?

      I can speak from personal experience that long term gameboy play does indeed put some serious stress/strain on my hand and thumb. After periods of continually using my GBA (say a cross country flight, 6-8 hour timeframe), the combination of repeated thumb movements and the way in which I hold the GBA gives me some serious aching and weakness in my thumb joint. It
      • It all depends on the person and ergonomics. I had always thought I was invulnerable to repetitive stress and carpal tunnel. Then we got a "Space Duel" arcade machine at work, and after getting high scores in all modes, my wrists were killing me. It was all buttons, and anytime I played for a while, the pain returned. So I quit playing.

        I've never had a pain issue with any other devices: keyboards, mice, trackballs, thumb keyboards (on motorol pagers, blackberries, Sidekick, PDAs), game console control
    • It reminds me of the "Opti-Grab" glasses from Steve Martin's "The Jerk"...

      "Sounds like a great idea, but your eyes are drawn to it... then you wind up cock-eyed!"
  • FUD? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:45PM (#11531178) Homepage
    The finding seems to be about the difference between thumbs and fingers, and the fact that thumbs are not designed to be tapping away for prolonged period.

    However, why is it targeting Blackberry only? I would imagine this HP4350 [] and many other devices will give similar problems.

    Next time they'll find most Roman emperors died of Occupational Overuse Syndrome because they kept using their thumbs on gladiators or lions.
    • Re:FUD? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The finding seems to be about the difference between thumbs and fingers, and the fact that thumbs are not designed to be tapping away for prolonged period.

      about 6 years ago I was diagnosed with de Quervains [] thanks, of course, years of typing. The doctor was going to get me in surgery. A friend recommended a split keyboard and within a few weeks the pain was pretty much gone. I swear by them now, they saved me from being operated upon.
      • I started to get recurring bouts of mild tendinitis in my wrists after more than 20 years of typing and video games. It didn't get to the point of me needing surgery but the recurring nature of it made me look into split keyboards. As you say, I have not had any pain since; everyone thinks I'm crazy for using them ("I can't type on them", is usually the response I get from others), but I have now retrofitted my office and home with split keyboards over the past 2 years, and I won't turn back.

        Now, if we c
        • I may have the perfect keyboard for you, if you can find one...

          I am currently typing this post from what is IMHO the best keyboard ever made. It is a Lexmark/IBM model M15 circa 1995. It has the wonderful "clicky" IBM keyboard feel with the positive feedback keystroke. It is a full split KB that can be positioned in just about any way you can imagine, and as an added bonus the 10-key is a separate unit connected by a cable so that you can move it out of the way and put your mouse/trackball closer to the c

    • However, why is it targeting Blackberry only? I would imagine this HP4350 and many other devices will give similar problems.

      As well as Sony, Nintendo, and MS any other console game machine.

    • The article was focusing on the Blackberry because its popularity (1.3 million units in the UK alone). I'm concerned after reading the article about repetitive stress injury to my thumbs from playing video games (from Atari 2600 to my XBox). Damn you FIFA 2005!!!!
      • Exactly. Its the same reason most articles about PVRs simply refer to them as "Tivo", even when ReplayTV was still a viable competitor (you know, before they were sold to ... whoever, i forget... and bent over for the studios).

        The media gets their favorite, and runs with it.
    • The finding seems to be about the difference between thumbs and fingers, and the fact that thumbs are not designed to be tapping away for prolonged period.

      Was *ANY* part of the hand designed to be tapping for prolonged periods? AFAIK "tapping" hasn't been involved in evolution - unless we see fossils of primates and primitive keyboards in archaeological studies.

      I'm 28yo, and have been using computers since I was 8. I can't use the keyboard for much time without feeling pain in my fingers, and my mouse ha
    • Re:FUD? (Score:2, Funny)

      by kevinx ( 790831 )
      They forgot to mention that if you hold it next to your head you may grow a tumor.
    • Next time they'll find most Roman emperors died of Occupational Overuse Syndrome because they kept using their thumbs on gladiators or lions.

      It can be assumed that using your thumb on a lion, in any manner, is an inherently dangerous activity...

    • I think it *may* have merit if it uses the really hard to press buttons that my mobile phone has. But if thumb use was claimed to be damaging in general, it would have come up long ago with varying gaming controllers. Again, those buttons are noticibly lighter on the touch than a lot of mobile phones that I've tried.
    • Notice the fact that there's no scientific study conducted and no definitive examples cited? A whole article consisting only of medical conjecture based on qualitative experience. If I read an article with more 'might', 'maybe's, or 'theoretically's, I would have assumed it was a Rumsfeld press release.

      Bad journalism, bad article, bad slashdot posting decision.

    • The only difference I see here is that most people using BB's are older people, and may be more succeptable to these sorts of conditions.
      I'm probably wrong here, but I agree with you, there are lots of other things that can cause the same symptoms like certain cellphones.
    • I had this problem as a child playing too much Nintendo. But I gave my thumbs a rest and I got over it.
    • Yeah, this is pretty goofy. Come on, any repetitive stress can cause damage. There's nothing particularly special about the Blackberry in this regard. Playing too much video games or sitting at a desk all day filling out forms or continually lifting heavy, awkward boxes can be the cause of this.

      That they even admit that there are no known cases shows how the news item is pretty contentless.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:45PM (#11531180)
    Next thing they'll be saying is "smoking causes cancer." Give me a break with your "science!"
    • "Next thing they'll be saying is "smoking causes cancer."

      Naw, it causes preterm births. Says so right on the package.

      "Tobacco use during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth"

      So I dont need to worry unless I'm pregnant, which would be a problem in itself giving my gender.

  • How is this... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jace of Fuse! ( 72042 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:45PM (#11531182) Homepage
    How is this any different from any other mobile device, remote control, game controller, or similar item which has buttons we press repeatedly?

    (First Post?)
    • Re:How is this... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CrankyFool ( 680025 )
      Frequency of use.

      I've got a remote control. To watch TV, I:
      A) Push a button to turn the receiver and TV on;
      B) Push a button to go into 'TV mode'
      C) Press 'Guide button'
      D) Press 'up/down' to go up/down pages;
      E) Press 'Enter' to pick a channel.

      So that's somewhere between 4 (D is not required, potentially, if something interesting is already playing) and ... 30, maybe, keystrokes if I have to go into the 'recorded shows' mode?

      Then, during normal operation, I barely use the remote control, every once in a wh
    • Because this is the first time someone's referred to Blackberries as "trendy."

      Now this [] is trendy!
      • What, the URL itself? I'd have to agree with that.

        • Far too long - check!
        • Contains the word 'flash' - check!
        • Pointless line noise encoded in CGI parameter - check!

        Awesome! :-)

  • by datastalker ( 775227 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:47PM (#11531205) Homepage
    ...andmythumbsarefine.Justlook,Ihavenoproblemswith typing.

  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:47PM (#11531207)
    People damage thumbs.
  • I guess its back to playing pacman then.
  • by Goronmon ( 652094 ) * on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:48PM (#11531216)
    Seems they took a lot of time and effort to basically say...

    "Using your thumbs a lot might make them sore at some point in time."

    Like someone else mentioned, its silly that are focusing on one product that will cause this. Almost makes you wonder who got the idea to do this article.
    • I can tell you exactly who got an idea for this. Someone thought, *shit, they're going to give me a blackberry at work and I really don't want that leash* and thought of this. The next time my boss says he wants me to get a blackberry, I'm sending him this link. I will avoid that thing like the plague. There is no email that I need to get when I am not in the office. If they want to get me, they can take the trouble of calling.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:48PM (#11531218) Homepage Journal
    If you know what I mean.

    Seriously, doctors in the UK need to take chill pill. It seems every day some Royal Academy of Whatchamacalit is pontificating on the dangers of everything.
    • Blame America for this. With the current lawsuit culture from the US spreading doctors etc. get commisioned b companies to find this out so they can put a warning on the box. Personally I've been gaming since I was 4 (and today I just turned 19) and my thumbs have no problems, if anything they are better then most peoples
      • Blame america! seriously, we should do this for everything. When an iraqi dictator gasses his own people, blame america. When a frenchman farts, blame america. When a scientist in England tells us that a product mainly used in europe and asia is potentially dangerous, blame america. What next, someone's gonna get sick off of the water in Mexico and it's our fauly as well?

        bite me! It's not america's fault if you're too dumb to know that what you're doing is not healthy or is dagerous. It's yours. Ta
        • I must object to this, although I see your point.

          The grandparent was talking about 'claim culture', a definate US import of suing for everything under the sun. Sue McDonalds for making you fat. Sue rollerblade manufacturers for falling off. Sue kitchen knife manufacturers for "not knowing the edge would be sharp since there wasn't a warning".

          Blaming America is almost a sport in the UK, but this one is actually a sensible point. Claim culture is a US import, and it's nothing but a waste of time and the rea
    • No No No.... doing that does not damage your wrist. It either makes you go blind or grows hair on your palm. I am trying to start a class action suit for all blind hairy palmed slashdotters.
  • by Meostro ( 788797 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:48PM (#11531219) Homepage Journal
    How is a Blackberry any different than your average game controller? I remember the old-school Nintendo nothing (not 64, Super, etc.) had the most painful control pad i've ever used, I'd get "The Claw" from playing it for more than a couple hours.
    • "How is a Blackberry any different than your average game controller?"

      The buttons are farther apart on any given game controller, requiring less flexing to actually push them. I useta have a little email pager with a KB similar to a BlackBerry. That thing was far more painful than any of my controllers, Nintendo or otherwise.
  • by PornMaster ( 749461 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:48PM (#11531220) Homepage
    Seems a bit nuts to go all Doomsday about this when kids use their thumbs 6 hours a day playing console video games... and when their thumbs hurt, they stop. You don't see GenXers walking around with crippled thumbs, do you?
  • He said he had not heard of any cases to date however.

    Let me know when millions of video-game playing American teenagers develop osteoarthritis. This is a BS study- prolonged anything can potentially hurt you.
  • the risk of damaging their thumbs from other "regular activities" greatly outweighs the risk posed by Blackberry use.
  • Quick Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mopslik ( 688435 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:50PM (#11531242)

    1) A handful of researchers think that using your Blackberry "repeatedly" might cause thumb damage.

    2) There have been no reported cases of said damage yet.

    That's pretty much it. A lot of "The Blackberry could..." talk, but little else.

    • 1) A handful of researchers think that using your Blackberry "repeatedly" might cause thumb damage.

      But text messaging doesn't cause such damage because you are limited to how much you can send... I guess.

      Personally I have found that after only a few days (about 5 or 6) I became quite comfortable using my thumbpad device and honestly I find a lot less hand pain than I do when using my regular computer.

      Wasn't there some initial research that showed Asian users were going to have stronger thumbs because o
    • A lot of "The Blackberry could..." talk, but little else.
      30 years ago, breathing a lot of asbestos might cause lung damage... The thing is, it's hard to repair such damage when it's been done, so you generally want to err on the side of caution... Not too much caution, of course - you do need a life.

      Of course, I'm typing this in a chair/desk setup that should gaurentee that I have carpel tunnel in two years...

  • This just in (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FunWithHeadlines ( 644929 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @02:51PM (#11531265) Homepage
    Any continuous repetitive motion involving the pressing of fingers or thumbs to electronic buttons of any kind on any device can lead to medical injury if done too often.

    There. That just saved us years of research and tens of millions of dollars. Please remit 10% of that to me for my valuable input.

  • by dfn5 ( 524972 )
    Um, in English please? ;-)

  • "Really you should not be making more than a few hundred thumb movements a day, so that does not amount to that many words when you think about it."

    We can only hope that with Tivo's new SDK [] some developer will write a patch to the widely successful "thumbs-up / thumbs-down" system which is causing us all so much pain.

    I for one welcome our new bird flicking Tivo overlords.

  • ...increases risk of carpal tunnel. Looks like a job for.... []

  • Duh (Score:2, Funny)

    by mkop ( 714476 ) *
    Doing something over and over again is almost always not good for you.
    There are a few exceptions though...
  • by Hangtime ( 19526 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @03:00PM (#11531374) Homepage
    my hand should be totally numb and unfunctioning given the amount of Nintendo I grew up playing. Yawn. Move-on.
  • Darnit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @03:00PM (#11531379) Journal
    And here I just ditched my notebook to avoid possible wrist damage and crotch-burn, now you're telling me I need to dump my PDA too?!

    Seriously though, it's an issue of being smart about how you use such things. Give your wrist a rest, let your thumbs hang loose every now and then, and take the notebook off your lap before it gets hot enough to impair your child-producing abilities!

    I haven't heard of anyone sueing keyboard manufacturers over RSI recently, so a little "Some experts believe that regular use of this device may cause thumb strain" should likely be sufficient.
  • by deft ( 253558 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @03:01PM (#11531391) Homepage
    Because it only has one big button.
  • Cheggidout:

    1) Sammy at Palm Addict writes "According to the BBC, Regular Blackberry use 'could damage thumbs', experts warn.

    2) Trendy handheld Blackberry devices could cause damage to users' thumbs, doctors are warning.

    3) But US and UK doctors said repetitive use could cause arthritis or harm tendons in the thumb

    If you ever watch Fox News you'll hear them do a lot of this- 5 minutes news spots where they simply say the same thing over and over, but with slight variations in wording. Usually it is a
  • But wait...

    I thought that we were evolving, what with all the devices that need thumb use. I don't remember where I read it, but I read that the thumb was becoming the dominant digit of the human hand.

  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @03:03PM (#11531415) Homepage Journal
    and the NINTENDO THUMB?

    those 8bit nes controllers.. damn. they really suck.
  • Just head over to your nearest Chinese herbalist and ask for his best "dit da jow" herb mix.

    Let it soak in alcohol, then rub regularly on your affected soft tissues.

    I tore my plantar faciae once, and it healed in just abour 3 weeks, compared to the usual 6 months.

    I assume that it must work just as well with other tendons and connective tissues.
  • by jxyama ( 821091 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @03:06PM (#11531436)
    then i'm sure there would be reports of thumb problems in asia, especially japan, where people compulsively send SMS and emails using their cellphone/joystick. just take a ride in a japanese commuter train - since actually talking on the phone is considered disruptive and a public nuisance, people either text-message or play games on their cellphone.
  • I think this could definitley be a problem.

    I've been using an IBM ThinkPad for a several years, and while I love the little 'pointer stick' type mouse, I've noticed my pointer finger developing 'slop' in between the joints of my finger tip from moving this little nubbin.

    My assumption is that the continued use and the pressure that I've used for many long hours of hack sessions has ground away at the bone.

    I've since been very concious of using less pressure.

    For background -- I'm 26y/o and in good health
  • I've spent a very good portion of my life mashing buttons with my thumbs. I have permanent callouses(sp?) on both my thumbs from the original nes pad, and the dreamcast controller did unimaginable things to my wrists.

    That being said, I've never actually had any muscle strain issues with my fingers (they call them fingers, but I never see them fing) when using my treo 600, gba:sp, ngage qd, or even my tetris watch. I could see someone who has never really spent a lifetime typing, gaming, or doing anything
  • By sticking it up your ass...

  • It is far more painful (and quickly becomes painful at that) for me to try writing an extended amount of anything these days because I typically type almost everything. It is easier and requires less muscle manipulation to type letters and words and symbols using a keyboard than to hold a pencil or pen and actually form the letters, words, and symbols the "old" way. I would say all this repetitive stress injury syndrome crap is due to our increased workloads in Western civilization, not necessarily the fanc
  • Ahem . . . (Score:2, Funny)

    by Captoo ( 103399 )
    Somebody should tell these people that gratuitously pointing at the obvious can damage the index finger.
  • I once kept an Activision Lazerblast game going for a couple of hours. Supposedly, you could "Finish" the game by getting a score of 999,999. I also tryed to complete "Pitfall" on more than one occasion. In each case, it was not my skill in the game that was the limiting factor. It was the fact that my hands got so sweaty I could hardly hold the Atari 2600 joysticks. And my thumbs cramped up from repeatedly pressing the red fire button. Game boys and Blackberries are like Yoga compared to the old 2600
  • If you could view pr0n... say with libPr0nLite [], then you'd have wr3ck3d wr1sts and thuck3dthumbz.
  • by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Monday January 31, 2005 @03:15PM (#11531529)
    Scientists report that riding a steam-train may be detrimental to your health as the unnatural speeds at which it moves might cut off the natural air supply to one's lungs.

    No such damage has been reported, but it's too early to tell, so best be careful out there, folks!
  • life itself wears you down
  • First off, why did they decide to single out the blackberry among all phones/pdas?

    Secondly, I would like to know the difference between the older blackberry's and the newer 7100 series which uses a kind of predictive text input but on a smaller keypad.
  • You fools! You should have bought Zaurii with cellular modems. Those tiny keyboards are on a Linux-powered device.

    I have only to wait for the OZ patch that disables the thumb hurting, and then I'm back to writing my novel in the Hancom Word.
  • My grandmother played her Intellivision so much that she actually had to have thumb surgery. Yes she had an Intellivision when she was 63 - cool grandma, no? She used to play Astrosmash and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, which used the Intellivision's side buttons extensively. (She couldn't remember the name of the D&D game, and always called it 'Gorrilas and Pyramids')

    Point is, it's not just the Blackberry. Any repetative thumb action will cause damage.
  • 1) Buy Blackberry
    2) Use it
    3) *****
    4) Visit Doctor
    5) PROFIT!!!
  • In other news, vacation home sales among U.K. doctors are up today. The doctors say this is in no way related to the influx of people worried about their thumbs.
  • Back in the late 1980s, we called this phenomenon "Nintendo-thumb".

    There is no known cure.
  • than using a blackberry. Fewer keys, more strokes. And, there have to be a boatload more of them. Why not look there and then extrapolate for the Blackberry, rather than conjecture on a smaller statistical sample?
  • I don't see why the blackberry is being singled out. All electronic devices can cause RSI if not used in moderation. I bought a stylus-based Palm Zire 21 last year and after 3 months of too intense usage I got mild tendonitis in my right wrist. I was forced to get rid of it to avoid permanent injury.

    In my case at least, I would consider stylus-based devices as more dangerous than button-based ones, since the former force you to make many small precise strokes with your entire wrist while button-based o

  • A new report out by the US Department of Agriculture says that people who are living a life are 246 time mroe likely to die.


    It goes on to say that those working with cinder blocks are prone to damage their hands. Someone should look into filing a lawsuit against whoever came up with cinder blocks
  • Here, folks, I have distilled the essence of this non-article...

    The headline shrieks: "Blackberry use 'can damage thumb'"

    The true fact of the matter, further down: "He said he had not heard of any cases to date however."

    What is really interesting here is that Blackberry brand has attained the kind of status in the collecive mindshare, vis-a-vis IPod, where there is a certain excitement around the product. This brings a lot of hype, but sadly it also brings a lot of junk articles like this one.

  • ... about my wrists and chronic masturbation.

  • Regular use of keyboards could damage the wrists. Oh, wait...

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman