Today I treated my first case of a Pokemon Go related injury. Of course, at first I thought that I was merely treating a routine ankle sprain, similar to the many, many ankle sprains and strains that I have encountered in almost 30 years of Chiropody practice. My 26 year old, very athletic and fit patient presented at our CanadaPhysio clinic today hopping on one foot and in obvious distress. He could barely put weight on his ankle and there was bruising and swelling around the outside ankle area. An ankle sprain, strain or even fracture is not an uncommon injury especially on a Monday morning following a beautiful summer weekend. I don’t think that there is a Chiropodist, Podiatrist or foot care specialist alive that has not heard of countless patient stories related to an ankle injury, but I have to admit that today’s story left me completely bewildered. At one point my jaw actually dropped in disbelief as my patient told me in painstaking detail how he had injured his ankle. While initially I thought that he was joking or even embellishing for the sake of making a routine injury appear more interesting, I soon came to realize and appreciate that perhaps this was going to be the first documented case of what I predict may become a global pandemic of injuries related to this new sport/game.
When my patient hobbled into the clinic today, I asked him how the foot injury had occurred. He answered that he had twisted his ankle after tripping over the family dog while in hot pursuit of a virtual Pokemon in the forest area that bordered his back yard. I simply stared back with a puzzled look on my face. My knowledge of Pokemon was limited to collectible cards, action figures and cartoons from the days when my own children were big time enthusiasts. What on earth was this grown man doing chasing Pokemon? And how did he get hurt chasing something that is not even real?
For the benefit of the uninitiated (as I was a mere few hours ago), let me provide you with some background on what exactly this Pokemon Go game is all about. For starters, I discovered that this new virtual game was launched only days ago, not even a week! In just a few short days of existence, I believe that this game has already produced the first documented case of personal injury, at least in the Greater Toronto Area. I would venture even to say in Ontario. The Pokemon Go game is played on your mobile smart phone. The game uses the phone’s built in GPS to track your physical location and will alert you to the, often sudden and surprise, presence of a nearby virtual Pokemon character. The various characters have point values and if you capture enough of them you are able to achieve status and ranking in the game. In order to catch the Pokemon character, you must hold the phone up in front of you so that you see your surroundings along with the virtual Pokemon through the phone camera. If you get close enough to the Pokemon, you can catch him; but be forewarned, the Pokemon is a slippery character, and you may not be the only one running after him. Anyone in the same area as you also gets the notification that a character is nearby. The chase can quickly become an amazing race!
So my patient was having dinner in his kitchen, when the game suddenly alerted him that there was a Pokemon character in his backyard which backed onto a grove of trees. He leaped from his kitchen chair and took off in hot pursuit of the virtual Pokemon. The family dog had followed out the back door and was running alongside his owner who was now running at breakneck speed while looking at the phone screen trying to find the virtual Pokemon. Somehow, dog and master collided sending my patient flying through the air and rolling head over heels. By the time the dust settled, my patient was the proud owner of a grade III ankle sprain.
So what is a Grade III ankle sprain?
Typically, this type of ankle sprain will involve the over stretching and sometimes even rupture of the ankle ligaments. Damage to these ligaments results in swelling, inflammation, bruising and considerable pain. Weight-bearing and movement is usually limited and the patient may require crutches, strapping or a walking boot so that the ankle ligaments can heal. The goals of treatment are as follows:
- Injury protection, ice and medication to address pain and swelling
- Exercises aimed at regaining ankle range of motion
- Strengthening of ankle and calf muscles
- Restoring joint balance and proprioception
- Slow return to sport specific (Pokemon hunting) skills
The good news is that my patient should make a full recovery. The bad news is that in just a few days of existence, this new game has already created a situation that has led to a serious, unexpected, and potentially dangerous injury. I hear that this controversial game has already taken the world by storm. Anyone playing this game is strongly advised not to run through the streets, sidewalks or fields with their attention distracted from their surroundings and focussed only on a small phone screen. In retrospect, my patient got off easy with just a sprained ankle...it could easily have been much worse.
CanadaPhysio is your one stop wellness centre. We are a multi-disciplinary rehabilitation centre with various locations throughout Toronto, Mississauga, the GTA, Whitby and London, Ontario. We specialize in comprehensive physical therapy programs which include or integrate Chiropody or treatment of foot or ankle problems provided by experienced and licenced health care professionals.