Help to prevent keyboard injuries

14th November 1997 at 00:00
Children used to suffer from scraped knees and bruises from falling out of trees. But the current lifestyle of many young people means they are increasingly being treated for that modern curse of the office worker - RSI.

Early symptoms of Repetitive Strain Injury - the result of hours spent on computer games or surfing the Internet - are reported in growing numbers of children by physiotherapists .

RSI can cause crippling arm and neck pain. In adults it has left many workers unable not only to pursue their careers but even to lift a cup of tea, tie shoelaces or do simple household tasks. It can take years to cure, but therapists believe it can be avoided by adopting better posture, setting seats and screens at the correct height and using equipment such as footrests.

Workshops to pass on this advice are increasingly run by companies for their workers. But Bunny Martin, who this week launched the Body Action Campaign to spread good practice in schools, said it was time to take the message into the classroom. She has enlisted theatre in education to help.

"Pain is a warning signal. The body whispers to you. If you don't listen it talks, and then shouts and screams. At the schools I've been into, I've been finding a quarter to half the class showing initial symptoms of RSI - pains in the neck and in the arms, tingling and burning feelings, even blistering of the thumbs from playing games for hours."

BAC will begin a year-long tour of schools in February. The visits, aimed at 11 to 14-year-olds, begin with a 40-minute play devised by Andrew Stockton of the English Shakespeare Company which dramatises the dangers of RSI and its solutions. It is followed by workshops and individual advice for pupils.

The session costs Pounds 365 per school, but the charity hopes to bring the price down through fundraising, especially for poorer schools.

Ms Martin said her aim was to see advice about RSI included in the curriculum at every school: "It's every child's birthright to understand this."

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