E-sports Health and Safety: 5 Tips to Prevent Injuries from the Popular Trend

As one of the fastest-growing trends in competitive videogaming, e-sports boasts over 380 million audience members globally and an annual revenue of over $906 million.

To put that in perspective, American & Canadian Major League Soccer brings in about $860 million in revenue. While e-sports haven’t quite reached the revenue of the NFL, NBA, or MLB, they are still extremely popular around the world.

So what do you need to know about e-sports health and safety should you (or your son or daughter) decide to become a competitive videogame player? And what orthopedic safety tips should competitive and even non-competitive gamers follow to avoid injury?

The Growing Popularity of E-sports

What are e-sports? Competitive videogames! Whether you’re an avid gamer or dabble on the weekends, it’s important to realize that e-sports are growing in popularity with no sign of slowing down, especially as videogames become more engaging, realistic, and competitive.

Wisconsin has a high school level E-sports association—WIHSEA—that includes over 25 participating founding high schools. WIHSEA has its own Twitch channel and they’re part of the North American Scholastic E-sports Federation (NASEF). And in fact, the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Carroll University have also launched E-sports associations. Plus, many other universities like UW-Madison and UW-Eau Claire offer recreational level leagues.

Like any other sport, e-sports leagues and associations often begin at the high school and amateur level and grow. However, there are professional e-sports players who earn seven figures for their competitive gaming work, lending credibility to the idea that you can grow up to be a professional videogame player.

Popular e-sports games include League of Legends, Fortnite, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Counterstrike, and Rocket League. Sports games like FIFA, Madden, and NBA 2K are also quite popular amongst competitive gamers.

5 Tips for E-sports Health and Safety

What do e-sports have to do with health and safety? Is there really such a thing as gaming injuries? While not as high-risk as traditional sports like football, soccer, and baseball, there are still opportunities for injury during e-sports. Videogame health and safety are essential.

At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we see a wide variety of injuries, including those related to repetitive motion. Occupational injuries to the wrist, shoulder, and neck are often seen in those who perform tasks over and over or who repeatedly use the same muscle groups without building counter groups for protection. When gamers play in the same position for hours using their wrists–and in some interactive games, their whole body–there’s certainly a risk for orthopedic and other injuries.

What can you do to protect yourself from injury during e-sports?

1. Take Breaks

The biggest concern with e-sports health and safety is that players can play for hours—sometimes even entire days, in the same position. Not only is a sedentary position dangerous for overall health, but certain muscles may become weakened and fatigued without proper use.

Be sure to take frequent breaks when playing any videogame. The full risks of e-sports are not well understood, but players can certainly put their health at risk if they play for long stretches at a time. If you’re part of a competitive league, implement a policy of a few 15-minute stretch breaks every hour or two. Get up, walk around, and engage your body in other ways.

2. Use a Supportive Chair and Ergonomic Equipment

A good gaming chair can go far in protecting your body from strain and stress during play. Many people may scoff at the idea of paying hundreds of dollars for a videogame chair, but if you’re a frequent or competitive player, it’s no different than purchasing the right gear for any sport.

Headphones, wrist protection, and arm supports can also be a worthy investment for regular videogame play. Slumping over a gaming console, looking up at a TV, or hunching over a computer can cause a great deal of neck strain. Keep the game at eye level and monitor your body for any discomfort.

3. Stay Sensitive to Your Senses

E-sports can also be tough on the senses. Eye strain can lead to headaches and discomfort (or a feeling of constantly squinting). If you play games with varying volumes—from music, explosions, or gunfire—it’s essential to keep the volume at a safe level as well.

Look into over-the-ear headphones that offer sound protection. If you need corrective lenses, be sure to wear them during play to ensure your eyes don’t get tired (causing you to lean in further and adopt poor posture). Be aware of your senses outside of the game environment as well as during gameplay.

4. Include Cross-Training and Exercise in Your Practice

Again, most gamers probably don’t consider cross-training a necessity, but when you hold your body in one position for a long time, you may experience strain on your muscles and joints. Cross-training allows you to build muscle groups that will help support your body during any activity.

Upper body strength will help your arms from getting fatigued during play. Core strength and back health will help you maintain good posture and avoid shoulder and neck strain. Working on cardio endurance and even leg strength will help you better support the needs of your body to withstand long hours of gameplay.

5. Listen to Your Body’s Needs

As with any sport, one of the most important rules for e-sports health and safety is to listen to your body’s needs. Take “bio breaks” when you need to use the restroom. Get up and walk around when you aren’t in play. Get proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep.

Playing e-sports requires you to be aware and engaged for long periods. When you are taking care of your body’s physical needs, you will find that your mind is sharper and your focus is better as well. Ignoring wrist, neck, or back pain (or any other discomfort) can become distracting and hamper your success.

If you experience an injury during e-sports or any other activity, the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin is here to help. Don’t ever play through pain. If you suspect that stress or strain is taking a toll on your joints and orthopedic health, reach out. Our team is trained to help you keep that competitive edge.