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Esports: Injuries, Treatment, and Nutrition

Gamers, also known as esports athletes, are prone to injuries during training and competitions, just like traditional athletes.

A pro esports athlete can spend up to 12 hours playing per day. That's why most gaming-related injuries are from overuse.

Gamers are most likely to have injuries to the parts of their body they use most: arms, hands, and fingers.

Even gamers who aren't yet professionals spend a lot of time competing.

Whether amateur or pro, if you're an esports athlete, you may be at risk for injuries. Our sports medicine providers can help.

Esports Injury Causes

Playing esports at a competitive level means spending large chunks of time in front of the screen.

While sitting during practice and competition may seem like a passive action, gamers' arms, hands, and fingers are extremely active.

This is why many gaming injuries can cause:

  • Overusing small muscle groups.
  • Lack of core strength.
  • Improper posture.

Common complaints of esports athletes

Gamers work with focused attention in front of a screen for hours each day. You're either gripping a mouse or controller or tapping on a keyboard at lightning speed.

That's why it's vital to think about your esports health.

The most common injury among gamers is De Quervain's tenosynovitis or radial styloid tenosynovitis (gamer's thumb). This is a painful condition where the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist become inflamed. It happens because of repetitive motion.

Other injuries gamers deal with include:

  • Eye strain and fatigue, which can cause headaches.
  • Cramps in your hands.
  • Stiffness in your shoulders.
  • Pain in your wrists from nerve conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Tendonitis (inflamed tendons) in your forearms.
  • Back and neck pain.

Treating Esports Injuries

While some athletes may need surgery, UPMC Sports Medicine has many nonsurgical options that help gamers heal and get back to competing.

Our sports medicine team may suggest one or more of the following:

  • Modifying your activity, which may include rest and ice.
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medicine.
  • Getting shots to reduce pain.
  • Going to physical therapy, which can include injury rehabilitation and stretching exercises.
  • Working with a sports performance expert on posture and breathing exercises.
  • Wearing a brace.
  • Meeting with a sports nutritionist.

We also offer surgical treatments, including minimally invasive procedures (this means a quicker recovery).

At UPMC Sports Medicine, we help athletes in all sports — whether traditional or esports — get better and back to competitor form.

Preventing Esports Injuries

Just as traditional athletes take measures to prevent getting injured, you should do the same.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting hurt and missing a big tournament:

  • Tailor your conditioning program to movements you use in your sport. You can even work out at home with some simple strength exercises. Like all athletes, the better physical shape you're in, the more endurance you're likely to have.
  • Pay attention to ergonomics and posture. You reduce your risk for eye strain, muscle strain, and hand or arm injuries by sitting properly and at the right distance.
  • Find ways to take breaks while gaming at home.

How to Stay a Healthy Gamer

If you want a long and successful career, you must form healthy habits early on.

Gamers often turn pro at an early age. Tweens and teens who are serious about gaming should be thinking about posture, exercise, and diet.

Improve your gaming posture

Sitting for a long time is hard on your body. It can make your back hurt and your muscles feel tight.

Gamers can take these steps to improve posture:

  • Avoid slouching by pressing your back into your gaming chair and your head into the headrest. Think about pressing your shoulder blades down, instead of hunching or rounding forward.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, with your knees bent at a right angle. Avoid crossing your legs.
  • Use your chair armrests, instead of using your muscles to hold your arms up.
  • Keep your screen at least 20 inches away from you, and be sure the middle of the screen is at eye level.
  • Have your keyboard, mouse, or other gaming controllers at elbow height, and try to keep your wrists straight.
  • Learn breathing techniques, like balloon breathing. Our sports performance experts have extensive training in breathing techniques you can use to improve posture.

Tailor exercise to your sport

Tailor your workouts to the movements you perform in your sport. This can help sharpen your hand-eye coordination — one of the most important factors in gaming.

Also, your body is under stress when competing in esports. Not only are you using your upper body to control your movements, but gaming can also increase your heart rate.

The better shape you're in, the more successful you'll be.

A few stretches and exercises that can be extra helpful for esports athletes include:

  • Hip flexor and hamstring stretches to combat sitting.
  • Shoulder and neck stretches to loosen often tense muscles.
  • Wrist stretches to help improve lightning-fast reflexes.
  • Finger strength exercises like opposition finger taps and abduction.
  • Running or cycling to reduce stress and improve general well-being.
  • Resistance training like wall sits, split squats, planks, and push-ups to build crucial upper body strength.

Even eye warm-ups like practicing near-to-far focus can be extremely beneficial.

Take sports nutrition seriously

A good diet can give you a competitive edge in gaming. All athletes, including esports players, need the right fuel from their food to be at their best.

Here are a few tips:

  • Load up on omega 3 fatty acids for good brain health. You can find these in fatty fish (like tuna and salmon), nuts (especially walnuts), and leafy vegetables (like kale and spinach).
  • Eat foods with potassium and magnesium, which can impact your reflexes, coordination, and muscle function. You can find these nutrients in nuts, fruits, and veggies.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes balanced. This helps with coordination and muscle contractions.
  • Go easy on drinks often marketed to gamers. Moderate amounts of caffeine are okay, but sugary energy drinks can leave you feeling jittery. Sugar spikes your energy, and then brings on a crash — the last thing you need in the middle of a match.

Contact UPMC Sports Medicine

To schedule an appointment or ask a question, call 1-855-937-7678 or contact us online.