Study Finds That Gaming Is Objectively Beneficial for Kids Fighting Cancer

Alessio Palumbo

A study promoted by the Juegaterapia Foundation and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that gaming is objectively beneficial for kids that are fighting cancer.

The scientific research took place in the Hospital La Paz (Madrid) and showed the following key points:

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  • 20% less morphine while playing games
    The pain these children felt can be objectively considered reduced, as shown by a 20% decrease in the daily usage of morphine. This refers to basal pain but also the general mood, with a reduction of 44% in incidental pain. This was measured with a Visual Analogue Scale.
  • Increase of 14% in parasympathetic tone, which favors recovery
    Acute nociception (conscious perception of pain) is associated with changes in the sympathetic-parasympathetic balance regulation. When facing a physical threat, our bodies activate the sympathetic system to help us flee the perceived aggression – but at the same time it affects us negatively due to an increase in arterial tension and heart rate (among other symptoms). The way to counter this situation is the activation of the parasympathetic system, which favors physiological recovery.
  • A 14% decrease in pain
    During this research, children with cancer who suffered mucusitis (one of the most painful side effects of chemotherapy, which makes even gulping impossible) were offered video games while they were controlled by two devices: on the one hand, the Analgesia-Nociception Index (ANI R), which measures heart rates, and video-pupilmetrics Algiscan R. The results showed there were no changes in pupil size despite a smaller morphine dosage, which points at a 14% increase in parasympathetic tone and a pain relief of 14%.

Francisco Reinoso-Barbero, Head of the Pain Management Unit in the Children’s Hospital La Paz (Madrid) and co-author of this research, said:

The medical implication of these discoveries are important because video games could become a part of the non-pharmacological therapeutical plan against pediatric cancer mucusitis.

Mario Alonso Puig added (M.D., public speaker, and honorific trustee of the Juegaterpia Foundation):

When a child is engrossed in a game they love, this whole process of generating disturbing thoughts, pain, and anxiety stops. Thanks to being fully wrapped up in the game, children activate their parasympathetic system. This second area of the vegetative nervous system has two functions: on the one hand, it favors social interaction; on the other, it helps to keep the internal balance of the organism, the homeostasis, which in turn reduces the wear of other body organs.

While the study itself has been available for several months, there is now a documentary film titled “When you play chemo flyes by”. Featuring singer Alejandro Sanz as the narrator, the documentary is available on Amazon Prime Video and Filmin.

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