Is Michael Phelps addicted to online gaming?

By Brooke Strickland

We’ve recently seen Michael Phelps stun crowds and fans all over the world with his agility and raw talent in the Olympic swimming races.  No one can deny it: Phelps is a truly gifted athlete and has proven himself as one of the elite. But in a recent interview where Phelps admitted that he plays the online video game Call of Duty for up to 30 hours a week, many people may wonder:  is his athleticism and dedication to the sport of swimming in jeopardy?  Almost all of his free time is spent playing the game.  Once a person starts playing more than an hour or two a day, this at some level, begins interfering with regular day-to-day activities.  Liz Woolley, founder of Online Gamers Anonymous says, “It can be even more dangerous for people like [Phelps] who are highly driven and competitive, which of course elite athletes and swimmers have to be.  The games can be used as an escape from the pressures of training or competition, but it has to be moderated carefully or it can have terrible repercussions.”[1]  Think about it – 30 hours a week is almost a full time job.  That kind of time spent in front of a tv or computer screen will start interrupting the routines and daily activities in one’s life. 

Video game addiction is starting to become a popular discussion among doctors and psychologists around the world.  It has been shown to generate increased dopamine levels in the brain, similar to what a drug or alcohol addict experiences while “using.”  The competition that players experience while gaming gives them the feeling of a high, and when overused, this can be an addictive force that keeps people coming back time and time again to play. 

Call of Duty is a graphic and violent game that has very lifelike avatars battling each other in war.  The violence and potentially addictive nature can have severe negative health effects, such as migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, interrupted sleep, backaches, and irregularities in eating or defecating.   

Video game addiction is real.  If you or someone you know is addicted to technology or video games, visit for more information about how to get help.  

[1] “Michael Phelps’ Call of Duty obsession may be destructive video-game addiction, expert says.” Yahoo Sports. July 26, 2012.  Accessed August 5, 2012.