Billion-Dollar eSports Industry
Not just for kids wasting a few hours, eSports has gained acceptance in high school, collegiate, and professional levels of athletics. There are over 150 US colleges with varsity eSports teams, with several offering scholarships totaling $9 million. The professional eSports industry earned more than $1 billion in 2019, with an audience of nearly 500 million worldwide, and has grown tremendously since the pandemic. The International Olympic sub-committee approved eSports as an official medal event at the 2022 Asian Games.
eSports athletes practice more and demonstrate greater intensity and skills of dexterity. The average gamer performs about 50 action moves per minute while collegiate and pro athletes perform about 500. eSports athletes practice up to 5 hours per day which may increase to 10 hours per day during competition practice and up to 3 hours of uninterrupted gaming during tournaments.
Cause for Health Concerns in eSports
A major concern of eSports athletes is the sedentary nature of gaming. A study showed that about 40% do not participate in any physical activity on an average day. eSports athletes are also susceptible to eye fatigue. A recommended strategy is the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes of play, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Additionally, neck and back pain, wrist pain, and hand pain are some of the common complaints of competitive gamers found in various research studies.
Mental health is an important consideration in the care of eSports athletes. Internet gaming disorder (IGD) is a known DSM-5 diagnosis with specific criteria. If you are concerned about a loved one’s mental health, be sure to speak with them, and possibly schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor.
Nutrition is also a major factor in a gamer’s health. Sugary energy drinks are often marketed to gamers to increase mental focus and performance. As we have all experienced, sitting and snacking is an easy way to consume excessive empty calories. Poor nutrition could exacerbate metabolic dysregulation in an already sedentary athlete and increase risk of obesity. Vitamin rich diet including vitamins A, C, E are good for eye health.
From an orthopedic perspective, thumb arthritis, tendinitis in the wrist and hands. Sometimes these require oral or topical anti-inflammatories or even injections. A muscle imbalance is also common with mid back weakness, tight upper back, and weak chest muscles which may require therapy and retraining of posture. Purchasing a quality chair with good support and adjustability is beneficial for preventing significant issues from developing. Stretching before and after any gaming session along with standing between each match/round is another important aspect in preventing and treating musculoskeletal conditions.
Late night gaming can affect the circadian rhythm of gamers. Blue light from the screens/monitors can decrease the quality of sleep. Either adjusting the blue light settings on the monitor or wearing blue-blocker glasses can also improve the sleep quality.
Dr. Natan Bastoky is a Non-Operative Sports Medicine Physician in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He is dual board-certified in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine. To learn more about Dr. Bastoky or to book a consultation, click here.