How esports & gaming athletes can prevent overuse injury

Sept. 12 is National Video Games Day

Participants at Dreamhack 2017 gaming festival in Leipzig, Germany, on Jan. 14, 2017.
Participants at Dreamhack 2017 gaming festival in Leipzig, Germany, on Jan. 14, 2017.

Sept. 12 is National Video Games Day.

Gaming and esports have soared in popularity in recent years. 

While gaming is not a traditional athletic sport, gaming athletes can get injured, according to Dr. Dominic King, D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine), a sports medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic.

"Some of the injuries we see in esports athletes are overuse injuries of the hand, such as tendonitis, both of the flexor tendons and the extensor tendons," he said. "We also see things like carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as overuse in the elbow and in the shoulder." 

There are different types of gaming -- whether performed in virtual reality, or on a console or a computer -- and the injuries will vary based on which type of gaming a person prefers.

Depending on the position in which the gamer is playing, esports athletes can also have strains in the neck and back area, King said. Esports athletes can have problems with eye-strain, too, he said.

But King said parents probably don't need to worry too much about their kids getting injured from regular gaming, as these injuries are still pretty rare and typically only affect professional gamers who put in a lot of hours.

He said most people develop issues when they ignore symptoms, which is why it's important to take action if aches and pains begin to persist.

King said that just like any other athletes, esports athletes have to listen to their bodies to prevent injuries.

"If you're playing a game and you feel soreness in your wrists or in your hand, or if you feel numbness or tingling, soreness in your neck or your shoulders, you need to take a break. Do some stretches, get up, walk around and then come back," he said. 

Physical fitness is key, according to King, not only for injury prevention, but also for overall wellness.

King said having a higher level of fitness has also been shown to improve mental clarity, accuracy and focus.

"Video gaming itself is not an incredibly athletic, highly cardiovascular sport, so you have to find a way to incorporate strength and conditioning, fitness and nutrition into your lifestyle as an esports athlete, just like any other athlete would," he said.