Physical therapy for the esports athlete
Posted on 10/21/2020
As recently as five years ago, if you had Googled ‘esports athletes,’ you may very well have come across many sarcastic comments about how they aren’t real athletes. In 2020, you will find items about their tremendous hand-eye coordination, work ethic and the degree to which they work to hone their craft.
You’ll also find the following: esports are growing at a tremendous rate, for both participants and in terms of viewership. Nearly 100 million people watched the League of Legends World Championships in 2018. There are more than 1.2 billion players of esports worldwide. It is expected that there will be $1.1 billion dollars of revenue generated by worldwide esports in 2020.
Much like their colleagues in traditional sports, esports athletes place a demand on their bodies that can sometimes be detrimental to their physical health. Unlike traditional athletes, these negative effects rarely start with one-time injuries and are not often obvious. I have had the privilege to work as a physical therapist with the Harrisburg University Storm esports program and have seen problems ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome, to tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), to nerve entrapments and neck and upper back pain.
For the gamers at Harrisburg U, we take a comprehensive approach. They often train many hours a day, so things like load management, which is often discussed in regard to the National Basketball Association and National Football League, is a very real thing that our physical therapists advise for gamers. The gamers at Harrisburg U workout with a personal trainer multiple times every week. We help coordinate with their personal trainer what they should be doing with upper extremities during these sessions so they aren’t overloading muscles in the arms and hands.
As with many problems that physical therapists address, a problem in one area can be rooted elsewhere, such that an unnoticed postural problem an lead to pain in the wrist or hand. Positioning is very important for gamers and maintaining proper posture is key, so targeted exercises for their postural muscles are a must. Sometimes correcting this can be the difference to the pain in their hands. Basic sports medicine principles like stretching, warming up and using ice after practice and competition are also vital.
Esports is a burgeoning field both as a profession and as an avocation. Much like their counterparts in traditional sports, they place high demand on key muscle groups and face the risk of injury or pain. This is true for professional and collegiate players and weekend warriors. Just as we do with any athletes, physical therapists play an important role in prevention, management and recovery from injury for the esports athlete.
By: Bryan Hoyt, MSPT, CEAS. Bryan is a physical therapist and regional director of operations for Select Physical Therapy in central Pennsylvania.