Some Guy Broke His Neck Playing VR
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Before we get into this, let's clarify: We're not here to trash VR games. VR gaming is amazing, and if you hear someone belittling it, they almost certainly haven't tried it. While those futurists who want our whole lives to switch to VR are deeply unhinged, playing a VR game for an hour is a ton of fun—just like playing a regular game for an hour is, only more so. You can even get a program that converts hundreds of non-VR games to VR, in case you think current VR games are too gimmicky or cartoonish or expensive.
Still, our bodies and minds aren't exactly adapted to VR yet, and that can lead to a few issues. And we're not just talking about first-timers who think VR means they can safely take flying leaps in real life.
This year, the Journal of Medical Case Reports documented a case of a 31-year-old guy who fractured the edge of his spine. He broke it while playing a VR game "involving combinations of shoulder, arm and head movements to rhythmic visual and musical triggers" (Beat Saber, perhaps). He was an experienced player, who did VR every day. But some sudden movement—he couldn't identify just which one—had chipped a bit of a vertebra, without him falling or hitting anything. Recovery took six weeks.
Doctors suspected osteoporosis or some other comorbidity, but he had none. They finally blamed a combination of the extra stress from the heavy headset (it weighs around a pound) and the way VR immersion blocks the cues that tell you when you're moving too fast. Your muscles are actually strong enough to squeeze and break some of your bones, but they normally have built-in checks to stop themselves from doing that.
If the same thing happens to you, be careful how you share the news. Last year, a different guy was online saying that he'd broken his neck playing VR using his Oculus headset. He posted about it on Facebook (the company that owns the Oculus), and he later said Facebook deleted his account for violating their terms. This also permanently blocked him from using his Oculus. Maybe they were just concerned and wanted to spare him further injury?
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Top image: Journal of Medical Case Reports