Wheeling Jesuit University


Playing Sports or Fighting Video Games Distracts From Pain



Got pain? Try a video game. Sports and fighting video games produce a dramatic level of pain distraction, according to the results of a new study from Wheeling Jesuit University.

“These gaming distractions may be most helpful in children and young adults undergoing painful procedures or suffering from chronic pain, as these individuals comprise the largest gamer demographics,” says Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, Director of Undergraduate Research and associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University.

In the study, Dr. Raudenbush and a group of Wheeling Jesuit undergraduate students assessed whether certain genres of video games will significantly distract participants from painful stimuli more than other genres. Dr. Raudenbush and WJU students Trevor Cessna, Will Esgro, and Ricky Yahn will present the results of the study, Effects of Video Game Play Types on Pain Threshold and Tolerance, during the 2006 Third Annual Undergraduate Research Day, Wednesday, February 1, in the Capitol Rotunda in Charleston, WV.

In general, the researchers found that participants in the sports and fighting game conditions were able to tolerate pain for a longer period when compared to the other game types and the baseline control.

“There are implications here for children, adolescents, and young adults, all of whom are the primary users of such video games. Physicians could possible implement this in their office to aid in distraction during a painful procedure such as injection or dental work,” says Dr. Raudenbush. “Video games could also be used in waiting rooms to distract patients from upcoming surgical procedures.”

Six types of video game types (action, puzzle, arcade, fighting, sport, and boxing) and a control condition were used, with each condition separated by at least 24-hours, in the study. Prior to and during the sessions, physiological measures were monitored (pulse, blood pressures, oxygen saturation). Participants completed a 5-min practice period, and then played the specific game for 10-min. They were then subjected to a cold pressor test. Pain ratings were made on a scale from 0-10 every 30-sec to a maximum of 5-min. Additional questionnaires measured aggressiveness, competitiveness, video game playing habits, mood, and workload.

The study also found that game play produced an increase in pulse as compared to the baseline condition. This increase in pulse was greatest in the action, fighting, sports, and boxing games. The sports game produced the greatest level of anger. The action and puzzle games produced the most mental demand, the largest physical demand was associated with the boxing game, and the temporal demand was greatest in the arcade and boxing games. Performance ratings were highest in the boxing and puzzle condition, and frustration ratings were highest in the arcade and boxing conditions.

Grants from NASA and the NSF supported the research.

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