Esports have become hugely popular in recent years, with more gamers turning pro than ever before. However, it’s always important to bear in mind the significant health risks attached to gaming because of the long hours spent in front of screens and using a keyboard or controller.
It may be surprising that something as enjoyable as professional gaming can cause illness and injury, in the same way, other sports can. Professional gamers are often referred to as esports athletes because of the way they face certain health risks as pros in other sports like football or basketball.
Because esports are relatively new, most physicians and medical professionals are still studying the health effects of being a dedicated player. This is because it is only now that long-term problems are beginning to manifest themselves in seasoned players.
Many people have concerns about the health risks involved in esports, mainly due to its sedentary nature. There is also the fact that hours are spent focusing intensely on a screen and it is perhaps not surprising that eye-strain is common among esports athletes. Muscle and joint pains are also not uncommon among professional gamers, which is particularly concerning because of the young demographic in the sport.
One of the most significant observations about esports professionals and health issues is that a lot relates to the computers, chairs and controllers they use and the many hours they use them for. There are plenty of ideas online and if you are looking for the ultimate gaming computer, you can view here for more.
Here are some of the common health issues and injuries that professional esports athletes are exposed to.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This injury is very common among professional gamers and can end their career. Carpel tunnel syndrome is also known as repetitive strain and it is caused by making the same actions with the fingers and hands for long periods of time. People who work in production line factories often suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of performing the same tasks, without breaks and for too long a period of time.
According to pro gamers’ website Blitz Esports, players who spend countless hours gaming often find their fingers and hands become inflamed or swollen. This places pressure on the median nerve which is found in the carpal tunnel which is the part of the hand that carries information to the brain. Other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include intense pain when gaming and it often becomes harder to use keyboards and controllers as a result.
Early symptoms of the problem include a tingling sensation or numbness in the hands and fingers. It is not unusual for gamers to ignore the early symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome which inevitably leads to bigger problems further down the line.
2) Collapsed lung due to poor posture, inactive lifestyle
According to gaming website Kotaku, 6 high-profile esports pros have suffered from what is called a spontaneous pneumothorax since 2010. In layman’s terms, this is a collapsed lung and it is marked by pain in the chest, shoulders or back and accompanied by difficulties breathing.
Although there has not been anything to show a correlation between esports and a collapsed lung, there are a few theories as to how these incidents happened. Poor body posture, an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle are all factors that contributed to causing health issues of this nature.
Ultimately, it makes sense that if a person is constantly engaged in an activity that means they are sitting down for long periods of time, they are likely to be unhealthy. Always place your health at top priority, even over gaming success, particularly if you want to enjoy a long career. A collapsed lung is a significant problem that can become even more acute long-term.
3) Performance-enhancing drugs
A few professional esports athletes have abused Adderall, which is a drug designed for the treatment of ADHD. Gamers have used this drug to boost their focus and concentration while in the middle of gameplay.
Adderall and other drugs used to enhance performance are known as PEDs. Although there is no direct link between esports and addiction, some athletes using PEDs go on to become dependent on them. There are some big prizes on the line in esports and some gamers will do anything to win them.
Although performance-enhancing drugs may contribute to more successes that might be enjoyed otherwise, the health risks are very high. In terms of physical and mental performance, taking PEDs actually impairs many functions while boosting others. This creates an unnatural imbalance in the body which can lead to significant health issues if PEDs are used over a period of time. Ultimately, the risks to your health – and your gaming career – are just not worth it.
4) Mental fatigue and early burnout
Reflexes are the key to winning in esports along with a focused and agile mind. However, many esports athletes have problems with anxiety as a result of the pressure on them to succeed. This pressure either comes from themselves, teammates or managers.
Many athletes enter esports from a young age and discover a world that is totally alien to them. Many leave families and friends behind to focus completely on developing their skills, which can add an additional burden of pressure on their performance.
Esports athletes practice up to 16 hours a day, which is a big time-commitment for someone of any age. This intense lifestyle can lead to mental health problems and physical issues caused by exhaustion and fatigue. It is not unusual for young gamers to burn-out after a relatively short career and when they are still just in their 20s.
Mental agility is vital for successful esports athletes if they want to be at the top of their game. Taking care of mental health by pacing yourself is essential and can be easily achieved by ensuring a regular sleep pattern is maintained. One of the criticisms of esports from a mental health perspective is that games can be extremely long, requiring mental rather than physical endurance as for other sports.
5) Poor nutrition and lack of exercise
Because of the time committed to practising for professional esports, there is little room for anything else. This means that meals are snatched at opportune moments and eating habits become erratic, while sleep becomes less important with the gamer’s heavy training schedule.
Poor nutrition can affect a person in significant ways from feeling tired all the time to developing lethargy and an inability to engage in daily life. Not getting the right nutritional balance from a healthy diet can have long-term health effects depending on how long the person has neglected their diet.
A major concern about esports athletes is the sedentary nature of the sport. Gamers start spending many hours playing while in the same posture and with intense focus. It is easy for time to slip through your fingers when you’re engrossed in gameplay and so it is a good idea to set alarms at regular intervals so that you can take a break for something nutritious to eat.
Physical exercise is also important for professional gamers so that they avoid developing any health conditions as a result of inactivity. Taking even a small amount of exercise such as a brisk ten-minute walk each day helps considerably to refresh the mind and bring back the clarity and focus required to succeed in esports. Exercise also promotes the production of endorphins in the body, which creates a natural “feel good” sensation which can increase confidence and improve your gaming skills.
How to Be a Healthy Esports Athlete
It really takes just a little common sense to become involved in esports without risking your health. If you’re constantly sitting at a screen, it is first important to make sure your seated position is ergonomic. There is a wide range of ergonomically designed gaming furniture for all budgets available.
Controllers are already quite ergonomically designed but the issue with them is that it is important to take regular breaks from the repetitive motion of playing. Ideally, every two hours you should take around 15-20 minutes relaxation break and you can use this opportunity to stretch out your body from sitting down and also flexing your hands a little too.
In terms of eating and sleeping regularly and to a healthy amount, ensure you have 8 hours clear for nothing other than sleep and that you eat at “normal” times of the day. It’s also vital that you eat away from your screen as your eyes also need a rest. Gaming for hours on end places enormous strain on your eyes and so they need a regular break too. If you take care of yourself in a disciplined way while you’re working your way up through the professional esports ranks, you are much more likely to reach the top of your game.