The Rising Trend of Virtual Reality Injuries: A Serious Cause For Concern?
In the modern tech landscape, more users are injuring themselves due to overzealous behavior in virtual reality (VR) worlds – a potentially problematic side-effect of this growing industry. Stanford Health Care recently treated a man in his 20s who broke his hand while lost in a virtual world, highlighting the need for increased safety measures.
The young man, engrossed in a computer-generated environment, became overly enthusiastic while fighting off virtual dangers, eventually punching a real-world wall. According to Dr. Ryan Ribeira of Stanford Emergency Department, this is a growing trend due to the immersive nature of VR games.
Ribeira commented, “In VR, things feel real. You might find yourself fighting off zombies or spiders in the game, which can lead to unexpected falls or collisions with your surroundings.”
While concrete statistics are lacking, the indications are that these VR related incidents are on an upswing. With the American public spending a hefty US$271 million on VR headsets alone last holiday season, as reported by CNBC, Ribeira expects more first-time users—and potentially, first-time injuries.
The first recorded VR injury was in 2017, but by 2021, the number had risen to 1,336 according to a study by Dignity Health researchers in Arizona. Alarmingly, these injuries often result from the full physical engagement required by many VR devices. From walking and arm swinging to neck movements and bending, users can easily find themselves in harm’s way within their confined indoor spaces.
The most common injuries reported are broken bones, cuts, contusions, and sprains. Ribeira added that people often fall when they become dizzy from VR head movements – another prevalent source of injury.
There are no concrete estimates of the annual number of injuries, but Ribeira suggests that it is likely to be in the thousands at this point. Many might not require medical care but merit attention. However, VR injuries are not yet widespread enough for most healthcare professionals to have encountered them. Consequently, not all health facilities see such cases yet, including El Camino Health’s Mountain View and Los Gatos hospitals.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission raised concerns about the implications of VR use on children’s developing visual and musculoskeletal systems, as well as potential neck strain for all users. Tripping over objects in confined spaces is another highlighted risk.
This emerging risk has caught the attention of certain law firms, which are reaching out to clients who’ve sustained injuries in VR. While the likes of Silicon Valley Law Group have yet to follow suit, attorney Stephen Wu anticipates potential legal issues around product design defects and inadequate consumer warnings.
Leading VR headset providers like Meta’s Quest products, Sony’s PlayStationVR, and HTC’s VIVE always warn about safe usage and advise against children using the devices. To avoid VR-related injuries, Ribeira and these manufacturers recommend using the devices in a safe, clear space.
Establishing a play area in the center of a room and maintaining a buffer zone free of obstacles can prevent accidental trips, falls, or collisions. It’s also advised to avoid straying from virtual boundaries set within the VR world, this can prevent painful collisions.
Despite the risks involved, Ribeira, who founded SimX—a startup dedicated to VR-based training for healthcare professionals—insists that VR injuries are preventable with proper precautionary measures.
Regardless of the potential dangers involved, the virtual reality trend shows no signs of slowing down. Keeping abreast with the latest in VR news at VRGameNews.com not only helps enthusiasts stay ahead of the curve but also promotes safer gaming experiences.