Why Are Mainstream Athletes Now Competing In Esports?


A mainstream athlete playing esports

Every industry has been impacted by COVID-19, from schools to sports. The sports industry is adapting, with sports like golf, baseball and soccer leagues starting back up without an audience and players practicing social distancing. Athletes are also finding creative ways to train at home and using technology to their full advantage. While some leagues are still on hold, mainstream athletes have found another way to compete - with esports! 

What Is Esports?

Esports, also known as electronic sports, is competitive video gaming on a professional level and has millions of fans and brings in billions of dollars in revenue. This industry has some serious players who can earn a seven-figure salary and have massive brand deals.

Like traditional sports, esports is organized and players compete against one another on teams. Esport athletes (often called e-athletes) practice with their teams on the video game they will be competing in. Any multiplayer game can become an esport, although the key factor is how entertaining they are to play. Games like Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2), League of Legends, Fortnite and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are some of the most popular games out there. 

E-athletes are a lot more similar to mainstream athletes than you might think! They can practice for a grueling 8-16 hours a day and can suffer from injuries related to repetitive motion and stress injuries to the hands, wrists, elbows, neck and feet. Like any athlete, it’s just as important for e-athletes to be holistic about their care, which includes being proactive about their posture, nutrition and mental health status. Fortunately, esports teams are taking a cue from mainstream sports, with many teams hiring specialists to work with their athletes in these areas, as well as turning to Athlete Electronic Health Records (EHR), like Presagia Sports, to track e-athlete health and performance.  

How Esports Popularity Has Grown Amidst A Pandemic

While some industries are barely surviving, esports is thriving like never before! Due to the social distancing practices put in place by the global health pandemic, esports is the perfect activity to watch or play. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a marked increase in sales and growth in the esports industry (growing to just over $1 billion in 2020).

Esports are inherently extremely accessible, as they can be easily viewed (using a streaming service such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming) and played (using a computer, keyboard, and mouse) in the comfort of the e-athlete’s home. Given the accessibility of esports and the fact that many are at home, it’s no wonder there’s been a 20% increase in viewership on streaming services like Twitch, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming. 

Even broadcasters who would normally showcase sporting events, such as baseball and football, have had to pivot and find new ways to fill hours of cancelled sports content. Take for instance ESPN and Fox Sports, who have both featured esport competitions to keep their viewers engaged. 

How Mainstream Athletes Are Participating In Esports

While professional athletes still need to maintain their fitness levels, they have more time on their hands than ever before. Athletes who are normally found competing in leagues, from the NBA to the NHL, can now be found teaming up with e-athletes.  Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers and Stephen Johns of the Dallas Stars have done just this by competing in Call of Duty.

Professional athletes are also turning to esports to do some good. NBA star Kevin Durant raised money for COVID-19 relief charities by competing in esport tournaments. NFL players are also getting in on the action by playing relevant games to their profession, like the esports game Madden 20, to raise money. 

We’re just beginning to see how esports is becoming the most resilient sport during this chaotic time. Not only are viewers and athletes turning to esports, but broadcasters, leagues, vendors and sponsors are seeing the value.

If you want to learn more about esports, check out our other blog posts on this booming industry:

  1. Everything You Need To Know About Esports: Part 1
  2. Everything You Need To Know About Esports: Part 2