ESport is a form of video gaming at a competitive level, and it is growing at a fast pace worldwide.
It is estimated that there are over 250 million amateur and professional players all over the world. Esports tournaments have boasted spectator records of over 100 million fans, beating several major traditional sporting events. In the United States, more than 150 colleges have created eSports clubs and they started to offer scholarships as they usually do for traditional sports.
Typically, professional players and teams play sports simulation games (e.g. football, soccer, basketball, hockey, motorsports), strategy games, first person shooter games or fighting games. These activities involve high amounts of technical skills, teamwork and rapid reflexes.
To compete at elite levels, eSports players practice up to 10 – 15 hours a day, even more than traditional sports athletes.
The International Olympic Committee on October 2017 recognized that eSport is a sports activity. Talks about including eSport in the Olympic Games are ongoing.
Given the growing participation in these activities at amateur and professional level, medical research and practice has entered this field in the last years and it is now possible to provide specialized medical assistance for those dedicated to the field of exports.
In fact, participation in eSports presents its specific medical problems for which a specialized assessment is required.
A study published in 2019 on the British Medical Journal Open Sport & Exercise Medicine reports that the most frequent disorders in these players include eye fatigue, neck pain, back pain, nerve compression syndromes (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome), shoulder pain, and repetitive strain injuries (e.g. wrist tendinopathy, hand tendinopathy, trigger finger).
The sedentary nature of this activity could also affect the players’ general wellbeing, their sleep routines and their social relations.
To date, the career of a professional eSport athlete usually ends around 25-26 years due to overuse injuries and performance deterioration.
Those who want to improve their performance in eSports must train long and consistently to refine their technique, speed, and hand – eye coordination.
At the same time, to maximize his or her performance, the eSports athlete must be correctly guided towards a healthy lifestyle that includes aerobic exercise sessions, and specific exercise protocols to improve flexibility, strength and endurance, and towards the adoption of ergonomic and customized equipment.
A specialized medical evaluation allows to arrange the best preventive and therapeutic strategies for gaming disorders, with the aim of keeping the gamer healthy, making him or her recover faster after the injury and prolonging his or her career.
The recommended strategy to ensure an optimal care of the eSports athlete is a teamwork approach: a doctor who is familiar with the clinical needs of this specific patient population should work closely with rehabilitation specialists and with the player’s coach to achieve the best possible outcome.
Marco Gastaldo, MD
Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine Physician
Isokinetic Medical Group – Isokinetic Torino