Esports has an unnoticed problem – player injuries

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Esports in India have gradually seen a boom in the past couple of years, especially after the pandemic. The 2020 pandemic is largely responsible for setting the growth trajectory of esports players and gaming content creators in India. Seated and playing from the comfort of their homes, esports careers are assumed to be safer than athletic sports.

In a 2020 published report by YouGov, it was identified that even gamers do not necessarily know what esports are. In many markets, this is in part due to more casual and mobile gamers, who represent a large and significant group of players – but one also less familiar with esports. The report noted that only 36% of Indian gamers are familiar with esports and still have a lot of potential to grow. This is one of the reasons for recent investments by marquee investors.

But the nascent esports sector has got a problem – player injuries. For the audience, this might seem odd. There is a misconception that esports players cannot be prone to injuries as the games are not a test of players’ physical abilities. In January 2021, Thomas “ZooMaa” Paparatto —then a top esports player in the Call of Duty League retired at the age of 25 due to injuries.

“For a while, I had no range of motion in my thumb,” Paparatto recalled in a recent interview with The Washington Post. A ganglion cyst, likely caused by gaming, had developed on one of his thumb tendons in 2016 and required surgery. “It was something I struggled with the entire second half of my career,” he said. “I always felt the wear and tear after long gaming sessions, and it was difficult to live the professional grind.”

While traditional sports like cricket, tennis, badminton often lead to obvious, acute injuries, such as a shoulder dislocation, twisted ankle, or ligament injuries, esports ailments are chronic and difficult identity in the initial stages. As such, esports gamers often continue to play in competitive environments unaware that they have internal health issues.

Esports players are prone to migraine attacks, back problems, neck and forearm injuries. The high responsiveness and focus required for games make gamers often forget to pay attention to their health. Also consider the fact that most gamers prefer night-long gaming, which disrupts the natural sleep cycle.

Other prominent players like “League of Legends” pros Hai Lam and Kurtis “Toyz” Lau Wai-Kin, as well as “Dota 2’s” Clinton “Fear” Loomis, retired in their 20s due to wrist and hand injuries. “Today, I’m announcing my retirement from competitive Dota,” said Fear. “I have been living my dream of being a professional gamer for over a decade now, and in that time I’ve accomplished each of the goals I placed for myself and for EG Dota. Now, I have to pursue a new goal-getting healthy. I still have a passion for Dota and for competing, but the long-term health of my arm has to come first. Thank you all for your support,” Loomis said while retiring in 2016.

To combat injuries, gamers should invest some time to rejuvenate by taking breaks in-between the sessions, practicing muscle movement exercises, and most importantly following a regular sleep cycle.

Dr. Lindsey Migliore, director of player performance for the esports organization Evil Geniuses says in addition to treating individual cases, popularizing and legitimizing esports medicine among gamers, the general public, and even the broader medical community are among her long-term goals.

Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme, a 22-year-old “League of Legends” player for Evil Geniuses, said to Washington Post that injuries and the fear of early retirement have always been in the back of his mind. He has experienced wrist, neck, and back pain throughout his career and says the support of professionals like Migliore has changed his approach to gaming.

It is also not too late for esports organizations and federations to come together and create awareness about the fit lifestyle for pro gamers to avoid physical and mental injuries.