Video games and military: Helping or hurting?

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The U.S. Military is worried that the current generation of young adults, those ages 18 to 25 years old, could be at higher risk of injury during boot camp thanks to a “far more sedentary lifestyle,” which it previously blamed on playing video games. However, other branches of the Armed Forces are studying how gaming could help boost soldier performance in battle.

In a release originally published on Feb. 8, the Military Health System published a warning that Gen Z recruits could see more injuries during basic training when they enlist due to changes in how young adults are living compared to previous generations.

The article does remain focused on how a sedentary life is posing certain injury risks for new recruits.

“We see injuries ranging from acute fractures and falls, to tears in the ACL, to muscle strains and stress fractures, with the overwhelming majority of injuries related to overuse,” said Army Capt. Lydia Blondin, assistant chief of physical therapy at the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital at Fort Leonard Wood.

Blondin said the injuries occur most often in the lower extremities, and that female recruits have a higher frequency of injuries than their male counterparts. The article urges recruits to “get off the couch” and conduct weight bearing exercises like running, walking and weight training. Recruits are encouraged to speak with their recruiters about “train-up opportunities” and to “get in that sunshine and drink some milk regularly.”

Blondin said low calcium and low vitamin D levels were common with bone stress injuries.

The current version doesn’t place the blame on any one thing.

“Today’s recruits are coming from a far more sedentary lifestyle compared to previous generations, making their skeletons more prone to injuries because they’re not used to the kind of intense activity they will face at basic training,” the release said.

However, as originally published, the text of the article was different, placing the blame on video gaming and calling Gen Z the “Nintendo Generation.” The text of the original version was retrieved thanks to the Internet Archive, or Wayback Machine.

The updated article on the Military Health System site removed a single paragraph, which read:

“The ‘Nintendo Generation’ soldier skeleton is not toughened by activity prior to arrival, so some of them break more easily,” said Army Maj. Jon-Marc Thibodeau, a clinical coordinator and chief of the medical readiness service line at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

Feb. 8, 2022 version of “Why Today’s ‘Gen Z’ is at Risk for Boot Camp Injuries”

The article was later updated to remove references to Nintendo and video gaming as a cause of a more sedentary lifestyle among young Americans, but not before multiple news organizations had picked up the story, including and Vice, among others.

While the original version of the Military Health System article placed some of the blame on video games for new recruits having sedentary lifestyles that could lead to injury, not all parts of the military mark gaming as a negative for soldiers.

The U.S. Navy released an article announcing a coming study of how video games could benefit service members’ “cognitive performance,” or their ability to think quickly and adapt to new situations.

“People who play video games are quicker at processing information,” said Dr. Ray Perez, a program officer in the Office of Naval Research’s Warfighter Performance Department. “Ten hours of video games can change the structure and organization of a person’s brain.”

The article said games – mostly first-person and third-person shooters, as well as games with top-down views – could help players with visual processing. The Warfighter Performance Department will study how video games “can change the structure and organization of a person’s brain,” and potentially enhance performance. So far, study data has shown subjects trained to do a task through a game learn it faster than those who did not.

“Consistent with our hypotheses, we found that those individuals trained on the action game showed faster learning of new tasks compared to those on control video games,” said Dr. C. Shawn Green, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Green is one of the scientists conducting the study with ONR, and researches what is known as neuroplasticity, or how a brain develops and changes throughout life.

While the possible risks posed by a lifestyle made more sedentary thanks to video games are a concern of the Military Health System, ONR said the potential for gaming to improve how soldiers and other service members perform in battle will be studied to see if it can improve training methods and provide “strategic advantage in the battles to come.”






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *