Have you joined the Battle (Royale)? Gaming, also known as esports, is wildly popular. And it’s quite lucrative — the top competitive gamers earn up to $6 million a year. And get this: More than 50 universities in the U.S. offer scholarships to entice students to join their esports teams.
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“And just as with any professional or collegiate athlete, injuries can occur,” says sports medicine physician Dominic King, DO.
What kind of gaming injuries are common, and how do you know when it’s time to worry? Dr. King answers those burning questions.
A: First, we need to identify the gaming platforms. Injuries are different depending on which platform you use:
A: VR is the most physical gaming environment. Gamers walk around (with literal blinders on) and wave their arms around to play the game. VR is a full-body gaming experience. Common injuries might include:
A: It’s not lower, but there’s less risk of a traumatic injury. Console gamers typically experience:
A: Eye strain for sure does. They have less of the shoulder, neck and back strain because they are sitting in a desk chair or gaming chair. But because they’re tapping the keyboard and moving their mouse quickly, they have a higher incidence of hand and wrist-overuse injuries like:
And because they may rest their elbow on their chair or desk, they are prone to pinching the ulnar nerve — the nerve inside the elbow. That may lead to ulnar neuritis, also called cubital tunnel syndrome. Cubital tunnel syndrome comes with the same symptoms as carpal tunnel syndrome, but the symptoms extend to the arm as well.
A: Of course there is a difference between casual gaming and competitive gaming. But casual gamers can certainly experience all of the injuries we talked about. For pro gamers, the injury volume is just turned up. (Although professional VR gaming hasn’t taken off — yet!)
Gaming injuries are rare, but when they happen they can be debilitating. Retirement from esports is typically due to having carpal or cubital tunnel syndromes or chronic overuse tendonitis of the wrist and thumb.
A: If you experience pain during gaming, talk to your doctor. It’s also time to see a provider if you have soreness after gaming that:
A: I recommend gamers rest every hour. There should be a hard stop every two hours where you get up, stretch and do a physical activity.
Some providers offer ergonomic evaluations for esports athletes. They help athletes identify the sweet spot for the chair, monitor and keyboard.
Cleveland Clinic is developing guidelines for collegiate and professional esports athletes. Physical fitness helps with strategizing, planning and problem solving. Cardiovascular training also helps sharpen mental fitness. The more physically fit you are, the more stamina you have and the better you can compete.