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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Experts warn of ‘laptop-itis’

A new disease is sweeping college campuses across the country.

More widespread than swine flu or bed bugs, three of every four students are at risk for “laptop-itis,” according to researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Doctors found that use of a laptop encourages bad posture, which can lead to headaches, muscle tension and debilitating neck, wrist and shoulder injuries. Nerve damage in the wrist can result in long-term effects like carpal tunnel syndrome, they said.

“Students are particularly vulnerable, since laptops are a common feature of campus life,” a report in USA Today said, adding that laptop sales presently exceed those of desktop computers worldwide.

Dr. Mehul Desai, director of GW Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, said “laptop-itis” is definitely something people should be concerned about, and should be proactive in trying to prevent.

“It puts you in such an awkward position,” he said. Desai said he suspects that users hunch their backs more to compensate for using increasingly-smaller computers.

“The smaller device, the more likely it’s going to put you in a position that is less ideal for your body,” he said.

Users should take precautions to minimize the negative effects of laptops, UNC researchers said, suggesting that elbows, knees, and hips be kept at 90-degree angle while typing, bending the neck should be avoided.

Desai also recommended sitting at a desk and taking frequent breaks to encourage better posture if a student plans to use a portable device for more than 15 minutes.

UNC doctors said installing an external monitor or keyboard could prevent forcing the neck and wrists into awkward angles, a suggestion that sophomore Kevin Duewel took seriously when his wrists began to ache from constant laptop typing.

“Maybe I lose a little mobility, but I’ve adjusted,” he said of installing a wireless keyboard and mouse to his netbook.

Duewel said he has cut back using the portable computer to take notes since he noticed the wrist pain was impairing his mobility.

But some students fear the loss of their laptop could affect their ability to stay connected academically and professionally.

“I carry my laptop pretty much everywhere,” said junior Kim Neu, whose mother encouraged her to buy a desktop to prevent potential health issues.

Nue said using a laptop enables her to constantly juggle schoolwork, a job, and her internship on the Hill.

Does any alternative appeal to her? Only the iPad, she said.

“But,” she added, “that’s not a financial reality for a college student.”

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