In a recent blog post, we explored some elements of the fast-growing esports industry, including what esports are, the athletes who play them and their relationship to the traditional sports world. In the second installment of this two-part blog series, we’ll delve into some of the factors that can affect e-athlete health, as well as what the future holds in store for esports!
Health Considerations In Esports
Though esports require a different skill set than traditional sports, e-athletes still follow a strict training regimen to stay in top form. In fact, a recent five-year study concluded that e-athletes are exposed to the same kinds of physical strains as traditional athletes! On top of that, the typical esports training routine doesn’t allow much time to focus on recovery or maintaining a healthy diet. This lifestyle can eventually result in even the top e-athletes sustaining serious injuries.
E-athletes train for several hours a day to hone their skills and be competition-ready, with some dedicating upwards of 14 hours a day to training! Due to the nature of esports, this high-intensity routine means e-athletes spend a lot of time seated, putting strain on certain muscle groups. E-athletes often experience pain in their hands, wrists, elbows, knees, feet and neck and are prone to overuse injuries stemming from repetitive motion and stress.
Burnout is another serious health concern that affects e-athletes. Commonly cited reasons for burnout in the esports industry include high pressure at a young age, a lack of balance due to commonly working and living in the same environment, and devoting too much time to practice.
As with traditional sports, esports have their fair share of sport-specific injuries. Some injuries that affect e-athletes include:
Carpal tunnel syndrome and other wrist injuries.
Gamer’s thumb from repetitive thumb strain, which can result in pain and limited mobility.
Collapsed lung resulting from bad posture, inactivity and poor nutrition.
Some injuries are more common to specific esports - professional e-athletes who play Dota 2 experience tendon injuries across the back of their hand more than those who play other games. In any case, injuries like these can end up requiring surgery or result in top players being forced to retire prematurely. So, what can e-athletes do to ensure they’re in top shape?
Prevention, Detection & Treatment
It’s no secret that e-athletes are faced with some unique health challenges, due to the nature of esports. Regardless, when it comes to injuries, prevention is the first line of defense regardless of the sport! By taking posture and ergonomics into consideration, e-athletes may be able to prevent some injuries. Slouching, not using armrests and placing monitors too close to faces are some signs of poor ergonomics pointed out by esports physical therapist, Caitlin McGee.
Other preventative actions include building up to full training schedules gradually, to establish stamina and tolerance. E-athletes should also consider the specific competitive requirements of their esport and train around those. For example this could be training in a best of three format, if that’s the tournament set up.
Despite best efforts, it’s not always possible to prevent every single injury. The next best thing e-athletes can do is to ensure that injuries don’t go unreported! Playing through small pains can cause the damage to add up, because the body isn’t given time to repair itself. Tracking injuries using an Athlete Electronic Health Record (EHR) empowers those involved in e-athletes’ care to record and access treatments and prescribed exercises in one centralized environment. Consolidating injury data also allows for identification of trends, which in turn supports further injury prevention!
As awareness of injury trends in esports grows, some organizations are starting to employ specialized physicians. Dr. Levi Harrison, a gamer himself, is especially notable in the esports community, as the founder of the first esports-focused practice in the United States. His treatments often include proactive exercise and stretches that help e-athletes avoid surgery or retirement. He’s also released hand and wrist exercise videos to help e-athletes who can’t see him in person. Speaking of exercise...
A Focus On Diet & Exercise
Along with expanding injury management protocols, the esports industry is beginning to recognize the importance of a physical fitness routine and healthy diet to complement overall training regimens. One study found that 56% of elite e-athletes believe exercise has a positive effect on their performance. Many e-athletes also reference a healthy, balanced diet as a crucial part of their success.
Some positive effects of physical activity and healthy diet in esports include:
Improved practice quality: This is due to the stress-relieving effects of exercise on our brains.
Enhanced competition endurance: A benefit reaped by e-athletes who exercise their mind (by doing puzzles or mind games) during physical activity.
Increased career longevity: Physical conditioning can help to counterbalance the repetitive movements required during intense tournament play.
Many esports teams are adopting holistic, health-focused training strategies to ensure e-athletes can reach their full potential. One such team, Fnatic, provides its e-athletes with access to a physiotherapist and a gym membership. Other teams, including Team Liquid, are going a step further by opening dedicated esports training facilities, where e-athletes can train with access to a chef, nutritionist, physical trainers and a psychologist!
The Future Of Esports
The esports industry is showing no signs of slowing down! In fact, it’s projected that worldwide esports viewership will reach 380 million this year, and reach a value of $1.4 billion in 2020! In fact, esports viewership is expected to surpass the NFL by 2020! This explosive growth hasn’t gone unnoticed, with some companies, like McDonalds Germany, moving away from sponsoring traditional sports in favor of esports!
Post-secondary institutions are getting in on the action as well, with many developing dedicated esports programs. There are over 50 colleges with programs that are recognized by the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), an association that’s dedicated to supporting the advancement of collegiate esports. Some schools, including the University of California Irvine, are also offering esports scholarships.
Other upcoming developments in the esports industry are expected to include:
Even more esports infrastructure, like purpose-built arenas and an official player transfer system, not unlike traditional sports.
Further incorporation of immersive technology, like virtual reality (VR). VR has already been used for esports spectators but may be utilized more by e-athletes themselves as the technology continues to improve.
Streamlined recruitment, management, and more through blockchain powered platforms, which can empower “gamers at all levels to meet, compete and get better.”
Eventual inclusion in the Olympic Games. While it’s unlikely they’ll be embraced by 2024, the International Olympic Committee “agreed that the Olympic Movement should continue to engage with [the eSports] community” during the 7th Olympic Summit.
Increased use of data analytics to predict a team’s success and assist with strategy building.
Evidently, esports are full of innovation and surprises, and here at Presagia Sports, we can’t wait to see what else is in store for this exciting industry!
Make sure you check out part one of this blog series if you haven’t yet: Everything You Need To Know About Esports: Part 1