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Gold, frankincense, skates and video games - Enjoy gifts wisely this Christmas, say physios

Chartered physiotherapists are advising that as well as making sure children get the most out of their gifts, they also enjoy them safely.

Many children will receive new and exciting gifts this Christmas and will be eager to try them out on Christmas Day – perhaps even before adults are awake. Chartered physiotherapists are advising that as well as making sure children get the most out of their gifts, they also enjoy them safely.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has put together a simple guide for helping kids, and adults, to get through Christmas without a hitch when it comes to enjoying this year’s top gifts.

Chartered physiotherapist Sammy Margo says: “We want everyone to enjoy Christmas as much as possible, and of course giving and receiving presents is a big part of that.

'We also want people to be aware that some gifts have the potential to cause health problems if not enjoyed sensibly. 'Presents like computer games, skate trainers, mobile phones and DVDs are lots of fun for kids, and don’t need to cause any harm to young bodies if used in the safest possible way.'

Sammy has worked in conjunction with the CSP to come up with some top physio tips for enjoying these gifts in the best way to prevent injury.

Games consoles This Christmas, computer games continue to be the most popular children’s present (see note 3). Chartered physios are concerned that people adopt poor postures when playing computer games - slumped and C-shaped. Studies show they might also maintain poor postures for prolonged periods - six in ten children spend over 25 hours a week slouched on the sofa watching TV or sitting in awkward positions playing with games consoles (see note 4).

Sammy says, 'Children often sit in front of a computer game in a posture that is very bad for their backs, putting pressure on discs, muscles and ligaments. They can become so immersed in the plot of a game that they don’t notice any pain or discomfort. Parents should make sure that children are sitting in a supported position, either in a firm chair, or on the floor with their back resting against a sofa. Games can be paused, so kids should really be taking breaks to get some movement in their muscles and joints. Parents could also consider purchasing a new-style console which encourages more physical activity, but kids should be careful not to overdo it with a full stomach and inexperienced muscles.'

Skate trainers

These are trainers with a retractable wheel in the heel, which can be instantly transformed into a pair of roller skates with the lift of a child’s toes. 250,000 pairs are expected to be sold in Britain before the end of Christmas 2006, putting them in the top 5 presents on children’s wish lists this year.

Sammy says, 'Children’s bones are more resilient than those of adults. Kids also have better balance, but this doesn’t mean they’re immune from falls and bumps. Children also pick up new skills quickly, but there will be a period when they first get their skates when they are bound to fall over.'

Sammy advises: “When skating, make sure children have appropriate safety equipment, including knee and elbow pads, wrist supports and a helmet, and supervise them as they are starting out. Kids can reach 10 miles per hour on skate trainers, so don’t let them get carried away before they master the technique.”

Mobile phones This year, mobile phones have entered children’s top 10 must-have Christmas presents for the first time (see note 3). Kids enjoy sending text messages because it’s quick, easy and usually cheap. Physiotherapists are concerned that the repetitive movements involved in tapping out text messages could cause injuries to the hands, wrists and arms. Parents should be aware of ‘text thumb syndrome’, which comes as a direct result of excessive texting.

Sammy says. 'To minimise any ill-effects, parents should advise children with mobiles to use their predictive text function, which reduces the number of times buttons have to be pushed. Also recommend alternating the hand they hold the phone in and resting between messages – sending 10 in a row is not a good idea. Even better, after all that Christmas food, encourage children to walk to their friends houses to chat face-to-face, rather than texting.'

DVDs A DVD of a child’s favourite television show is a popular choice for a stocking filler. Kids get a lot of enjoyment from watching programmes over and over again. But with childhood obesity on the rise, it is important to encourage children to get active, especially during an overindulgent period like Christmas. Also, research released by the CSP in October this year suggested that physiotherapists are already seeing an increase in physical problems caused by inactive teenage lifestyles and they believe the problem is set to worsen in years to come (see note 4).

Sammy says, 'Physiotherapists recognise that sitting for long periods of time, especially on soft furniture, can play a significant part in the development of back problems. Don’t let children watch episode after episode - encourage them to get up every twenty minutes for a break. A change in position and a little activity will work wonders for keeping their metabolism going and stopping them from getting stiff and uncomfortable. And as an extra boost to their festive physical activity levels, parents could buy their children a fun exercise DVD too.'

Notes to editors

  1. For more information please call Becky Darke or Jennie Edmondson in the CSP press office on 020 7306 6628 / 020 7306 6616 Mobiles: 07900 160 349 / 07786 332 197.

  2. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK's 47,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants.

  3. Deloitte’s Christmas Retail survey, in its 12th year, looks at the spending habits and moods of consumers ahead of the Christmas period. For more information, see the Deloitte website

  4. For more information see the CSP press release Teenage lifestyles causing back pain, warn physios

Copies of the CSP leaflet 'Backs for the Future' can be downloaded on this website. Alternatively, send a stamped self-addressed envelope to 'Backs for the Future, EHU, The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, 14 Bedford Row, London WC1R 4ED.

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