How to reduce injury risk in esports

In today’s world, injury and esports are two words that, when combined, receive little attention. This is most likely due to misconceptions regarding the amount of physical and mental stress endured by gamers.

However, for the vast majority of gamers – both amateur and elite, playing anywhere from 10-15 hours a day is far from abnormal and when combined with over 400 fine motor movements per minute (1) in a poor seating position without proper support, it is no surprise that esports players are at a significant risk of injury.  

The repetitive nature of esports predisposes gamers to strain or stress injuries in several different areas including the neck, wrist, elbows, hands, feet and knees. Some of the most commonly reported injuries include Carpal tunnel (compressive neuropathy) of the hand, lower back pain and tendonitis.

The eyes are another major cause for concern when it comes to gaming given the amount of time spent staring at a screen at about an inch away! However, the issue with these injuries is that pain is not the only side effect, they can lead to other issues such as increased anxiety or stress, poor sleep quality / time and also reduced cognition. Collectively, this can significantly reduce gaming performance. 

In the professional gaming scene, there have been a number of instances where individuals have had to pull out of competitions due to injury and in some cases even retire. With the industry growing at such a rapid rate the number of amateur and professional gamers experiencing some sort of injury throughout their career is likely to increase. Therefore, it is crucial that gamers take preventative action.

Here are some top tips for staying injury free: 

Move more sit less: if there is anything you can take away from this entire article this would be it. Try and get up and move around every 20-30 minutes if possible. The more you move the better! 

Exercise more: this is tied into the point above but becoming more physically active will not only help to reduce your chances of injury but may also help to improve your gaming performance. This doesn’t mean going out immediately and buying a gym membership. Whilst that would be great, it is not for everyone. Things such as taking your dog for a walk or going for a run are all great. The more you do the better. 

Ensure proper Support: ideally you want to sit with your hips at the back of the chair, feet flat on the floor, shoulders relaxed with your upper back supported, the screen should be just above eye level and the chair should be between 100-110 degrees. For those using keyboards, ensure that it is close enough to you so that you are not over-arching your wrist. For those using controllers, try and stay at the back of the chair. Many will find themselves getting closer and closer to the screen without even realizing, however, this is what puts excessive strain on your neck, eyes and back. The next point below should help alleviate this! 

Engage with Mindfulness: being aware of how you are sitting can work wonders for your body in terms of the stress you put it under. Try to say to yourself every 20 minutes “am I sitting correctly, or am I slouched with my face an inch from the screen?”. This is obviously very hard to do when you’re playing an important match or competition, however, the more often you check the more natural it will become.  

Improve your Nutrition: traditionally, diet and gaming have never been best friends. Quick-fix junk food and drink are both go-tos, however, these are high in refined sugars and fat (or worse trans fats) which can have a number of negative effects on the body including increased blood pressure and cholesterol, weight gain, depression and many more. Junk food and drink can also increase the level of inflammation (2,3) in the body, which, when accompanied with several hours of gaming, can be a recipe for injury. Try switching that can of coke for water or squash and replace the bag of crisps for fruits and vegetables. Both of these contain antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation within the body (4). Finally, increase your protein intake! Protein aids in the building and recovery of muscle and will therefore be your best friend after a 15-hour gaming session. Protein is also the most satiating, meaning that it will keep you fuller for longer and therefore make you less likely to be tempted to eat junk.  

Sleep / rest more: this is another area that many gamers tend to neglect. Sleep is vital in helping your body to recover from the stress of the day, hence why poor or inadequate sleep is associated with increased cortisol secretion (stress hormone) and inflammation (5). Therefore, increasing your sleep duration and quality is vital in helping to avoid injury. 

Check out our sleep infographic (below) for some tips on getting a good night’s sleep.

If you are currently experiencing pain or discomfort as a result of gaming my advice would be to try these steps and use a basic measure such as journaling/note making in a diary to see how they affect you. If the issues persist, seek medical help!

Written by Jamie Kiff, G-Science Performance Scientist