One more game. One more turn. One more quest. One more of the many things you could be telling yourself during a game. What “one more” you do not think about is one more injury. But if you continue to play more than 10 hours a day everyday for weeks on end, well that one more could just be showing up more often than you like.
Earlier this year, NBC News reported that professional gamer Tommy “ZooMaa” Paparatto threw in the towel and retired from competitive esports at age 25. Due to repetitive hand strains, ZooMaa had to undergo surgery a few years back. Unfortunately the injury came back and he said that he can no longer play at the highest level because of it. He will not be joining the other Call of Duty victors in the foreseeable future due to thumb and wrist injury.
Sadly, he is just one of the many fallen comrades of the esports world that had to retire due to physical constraints. Apart from thumb and wrist strain, the common pro gamer injuries are chronic back pain and gamer’s elbow. Remember that the slightest discomfort (whether physical or digestion-related) can give your opponent an advantage.
So how can we reduce the risk of these?
TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
Taking a break can be a drag especially if you are enjoying your winning streak or trying to master a strategy. Even having a break to snack is not on the top of mind; hence the ingenious inventions people design to make it possible while playing games. But not taking a break is one of the reasons why gamers become exhausted and injured.
Just so it’s clear, this is for taking regular breaks from gaming and not household chores to play longer! Video games by default are addicting and if you are training to become a pro gamer, then the hours start to really pile up. Your wrists and thumbs are susceptible to a lot of strain due to intense repetitive finger movement plus the fast pace nature of esports games. Definitely not the same as washing the dishes nor fixing the bed nor walking the dog.
The best way to utilize your breaks, however, is to do simple exercises that correct, soothe, and help avoid injuries. Highlight on simple since our goal is to avoid injuries and not build up like Kratos from God of War.
DO EXERCISES AND STRETCHES
Back stretches like Dead Hang strengthens your upper body especially your spine and relieves any pain from that area. It also helps align your head to your lower body to avoid Kyphosis which most gamers tend to have (basically when your head sits ahead of the rest of your body probably from closing up to the screen too often then slouching).
Finger stretches on the other hand relieve pain from, well, your fingers and help avoid inflammation in the joints. Worth reading is Redbull’s published article of 7 hand exercises ideal for aspiring esports athletes or addicted casual gamers. Either way, the gaming hours do not vary much. If you are not much of a reader, then this video from Esports Healthcare is definitely a must watch.
Maybe you just want to start out on a good foot with your esports training and that’s why you are reading this. However, there’s a bigger chance that you are here exactly because you think you already have an injury or starting to feel that you might have. Do not worry as most strains do sort themselves out over time. Let us repeat that again, over time.
Strains are nothing to be worried about generally speaking. However when it’s repetitive, that’s when you have to consider changing some things. Do not wait until your wrists or thumbs are on fire. When you start to feel that something is off, stop playing. Granted, it’s easier said than done but surely you do not want to hang up your controller before you even reach the esports stage.
Occasional wearing of a wrist brace is not a bad idea to prevent injuries. Not ideal when playing a tourney but when you’re just at home, why not. Check out BraceAbility’s one that is designed for gamers.
Apart from stepping aside from playing, you can also take anti-inflammatory medicine. But of course you do not want to be doing that too often; otherwise, it’s not just video games you will be addicted to!
These are things you can do at home. However, if you are at the point where playing video games has become too uncomfortable, it’s time to see a doctor. A doctor in a real hospital who cures patients. Not play Outlast to see Dr. Rick Trager.
Playing smart is not just about winning the game. It’s about winning a lot for longer. Plus, you do not want to miss out on new video games releases because of an injury. Imagine if you get the Gamer’s Thumb in time for New World’s release in August?! To be fair, in any of the upcoming video games for 2021.