A surgery professor says students are arriving at medical school without the hand strength and skill to perform basic medical tasks
Prof Roger Kneebone, a professor of surgical education at Imperial College London, has said students are arriving at medical school without the required manual dexterity to perform simple, necessary surgical tasks such as sewing up patients after operations.
His comments, made as part of a campaign by the Edge Foundation to get more creativity into the UK school curriculum, are the latest to question whether modern lifestyles are affecting people’s ability to use their hands.Earlier this year, concern was expressed that children were arriving at UK schools unable to perform simple tasks such as holding a pencil correctly, because they had been using so much screen-based technology in their formative years.Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS trust, said: “Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago.
”The (ineffectual) finger of blame is pointed squarely at phone and tablet usage. As well as stunting the development of physical dexterity, our over reliance on technology may be causing other long-term problems for our health.
A 2015 Turkish university study, published in the Muscle & Nerve journal, attempted to assess the physical impact of different levels of phone use of 102 students, using ultrasound to measure the impact on their tendons. Comparing participants’ scores on the “smartphone addiction scale” with their “grip and pinch strengths”, the study found that “frequent smartphone users may be more prone to experience pain in their thumbs” than counterparts who did not use phones as often or at all.
If you worry your constant tapping, typing and thumb-swiping may be impairing your dexterity, exercise can help. Physiotherapists recommend that grasping a squeezeball 10 to 12 times for three to five seconds in each hand once a day is good for maintaining flexibility and muscle in your hands. Another good exercise is to stretch your fingers by holding your hand out in front of you, fingers up, palm facing away. Gently pull the fingers down towards you with your other hand, then repeat with the fingers facing down.
Or you could put your phone down a bit more often.
The risk may be exaggerated, though. Past moral panics about technology have centred on the impact of children using video-game controllers in the 1980s and 90s. Maybe we don’t need to worry about Kneebone’s vision of future surgeons who can’t sew us up anyway – in Japan, robots have started to take over basic nursing duties.
1 Get A Grip: Are Smartphones Ruining Our Hands? Photos