One of the refrains bleated by those who dislike esports is that competitors are not “real” athletes. This appears to be a similar idea held the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which does not include collegiate esports as part of its umbrella and offers no guidelines for managing the health of collegiate esports players. To that end, a medical paper published on the BMJ seeks to provide a baseline for treatment and care of these new types of athletes.
The authors of the paper sent out anonymous electronic surveys to 65 college esports players from nine different universities across North America, asking them questions about their gaming habits, lifestyle habits, and musculoskeletal complaints that arise from their form of competition. The results of the survey indicate that esports athletes are susceptible to overuse injuries just like “normal” athletes; the most frequently reported complaint was eye fatigue, followed by neck and back pain, wrist pain, and hand pain. Additionally, 40% of participants do not participate in any form of physical exercise, and only 2% had sought medical attention.
The paper goes on to outline a plan for treatment of collegiate esports athletes, with focus on preventative medicine and a call for esports coaches to “have a working knowledge of minimal health guidelines and signs of common overuse injuries as well as signs of gaming addiction.” The paper also suggests that physicians seeing these athletes should have a working knowledge of what gaming entails from both a physical and emotional standpoint.
“Being in good academic standing and managing injuries is the responsibility of individual institutions, players, coaches and trainers who interact with these players regularly. These players should be mandated by academic institutions and athletic departments to undergo a health evaluation annually to help prevent injury and to be screened for medical issues, similar to other traditional collegiate and high school sports.”