1982: 'Pac-Man elbow' and other fad-induced injuries of the 1980s

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 05:00:47-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Cuber’s thumb, designer jean folliculitis, and Pac-Man elbow, were a few of the fad injuries discussed in a health segment that aired on WRTV 40 years ago.

“Story on Your Health,” was a regularly occurring segment on WRTV from 1981 through 1986. It featured health stories with Dr. Tim Story and former WRTV journalist Clyde Lee.

A story that aired in February 1982 featured a new phenomenon known as Pac-Man elbow.

The arcade game, which had only been out for a couple of years, was the apparent culprit behind a number of orthopedic injuries like sore shoulders, painful or stiff wrists and even blisters.

According to Dr. Story, the majority of injuries could be traced back to the game’s joystick.

It wasn’t the first time a game was to blame for orthopedic injuries.

Dr. Story said similar injuries first appeared in the mid-1970s thanks to pinball machines.

Pinball wrist pain was documented in the May 1981 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The game behind the pain — Space Invaders.

Dr. Story also mentioned other fads that were causing medical issues at the time including folliculitis caused by tight-fitting designer jeans, and cuber’s thumb, which was associated with the Rubik's Cube.