eSport injuries – the most common complaints

The argument that eSport is a rather less physically exhausting kind of sport does not come along with the occurring injuries.  Hardly any player can play for years without injuries or complaints. Similar to regular sports, there is also a certain risk of injury in eSports. Those injuries mainly differ from traditional sports, because they barely eventuate rapidly. In this article we take a look into what injuries or disorders are most likely to occur and what you can do to prevent them.

Considering the daily routines of an eSports athlete, training sessions for up to 10 hours a day are quite common. While this activity seems hardly physical the player does quite commonly perform up to 300-400 very precise actions per minute (apm). While doing so the amplitude of motion is still small, but the constantly repeating movements are quite monotone and leave a high risk for tendon irritations, inflammations and similar disorders. Being mainly sedentary, this overall stationary practice adds risks to the muscular-skeletal-system. That’s why they belong to a kind of risk group.

Injuries the pro’s are facing

A significant amount of progamers had to end their career early or take a break because of heavy and partly protracted injuries. A well-known example is the DOTA 2 player Clinton “Fear” Loomis, who currently suffers from a sever “tennis elbow”.  According to his own reports Loomis felt forearm pain with every mouse click. Therefore he had to pause gaming to recover on multiple occasions and missed out on important events.

Another example is Hai „Hai“ Lam, former League of Legends pro and core member for Cloud9. Due to persistent problems regarding his wrist, Hai had to concede to his injuries and take a long break in 2015 at the age of 22, although he returned to the scene in the upcoming year. Meanwhile he is retired from the competitive scene because he just could not perform the necessary amount of training sessions or scrims and currently focusses on streaming instead.

The top 3 injuries in eSports

1 – The carpal tunnel syndrome

The most common wrist injury is the carpal tunnel syndrome. This injury occurs when the carpal tunnel is too narrow and the structures it contains no longer have sufficient space. This increases the pressure on the mid-arm nerve and the small vessels that supply the carpal tunnel. Consequently, the nerve no longer receives sufficient oxygen and nutrients. The function is impaired and long-lasting complaints can occur. In the initial stage, pain, tingling and numbness can occur in the wrist and fingers. Initially these complaints are only of short duration. It often feels as if the fingers are “falling asleep”. If the condition worsens further, the whole arm can be affected and the symptoms last longer or occur permanently. This can lead to the fact, that you lose the feeling in the fingers almost completely later and the fine motor skills of the hands are strongly impaired.

If you are still at the beginning of the injury, you can still treat it conservatively. While the wrist must be protected during the day, a splint is worn in the evening to hold the wrist still. If the carpal tunnel syndrome is already at an advanced stage, a surgery is unavoidable. Due to the surgery the tendons and nerves will get more space and the pressure of them eases. Though the wrist is not allowed to perform any heavy activities about four to six weeks and must gradually be brought back to the stresses of everyday life.

2 – The tennis elbow

An also common injury in eSport is the already mentioned so-called „tennis elbow” or “mouse elbow”. The complaints are triggered by an overloading of the muscular system, which performs the bending and stretching of the wrist. The increased tension of the muscle leads to fine cracks at the base of the muscle tendons at the elbow joint. They are the reason for the noticeable pain in the elbow. If the overburdening activity is continued, a chronic inflammation may develop. This results in a permanent severe pain. In addition, the pain can radiate into the forearm and up to the hand. Pressure pain when touching the elbow can also be a symptom of the tennis elbow. Also a loss of strength of the hand- and finger muscles or a tingling sensation in the hand is associated with the injury.

Anyone who suffers from this injury should first of all stop the activity that causes the pain and spare the affected arm. Regeneration time is individually different and can last from a few weeks up to several years. The duration and the severity of the irritation also has an influence on the duration of healing. You should not resume the strenuous activity too early, otherwise you might undergo a delayed recovery or relapse.

3 – Back pain

Another one of the most common injuries in eSports is back pain. In most of the cases it results from the lack of exercise, incorrect posture at the workplace and stress. The main cause is sitting for too long. Though, usually several factors play together at the same time and lead to muscle tension, which can trigger back pain. A weakened back musculature promotes the development of back pain. Often the lower back is affected, although neck or shoulder pain can also be symptoms. The limitation of mobility can also be attributed to back pain. Ignoring the back pain may lead to a herniated disc, irritation of the sciatic nerve or other disease patterns.

Most of the complaints are solely caused by muscle tension and not by a disease of the spine. To counteract this, you should take breaks between long periods of sitting, to get up and actively move. Also stretching or changing the sitting position activates the muscles and can, combined with an ergonomically correctly adjusted chair and workplace, prevent tension and counteract back pain.

Movement for prevention

What can athletes do to counteract these complaints? Many professional eSport players already demonstrate it: besides the training on the computer they are physically active every day. By reason that physical activity can reduce the risk of injury enormously and alongside, we also do something for our health! Nice to know is that everyone can use these effects for themselves. You don’t need expensive training equipment or a fitness studio. The own body weight and a few small aids are usually sufficient! But which exercises exactly help to prevent the corresponding injuries in eSport? You can read this in our next blog entry! In addition, there will be a small tutorial to try out. These hints will help you to keep your wrists healthy and your performance high.