With the rapid growth and popularity of esports and esports medicine, it is crucial for healthcare professionals, specifically osteopathic physicians, to understand and address the unique health concerns faced by esports athletes. This article aims to summarize the key points discussed in a recent study that sheds light on the health issues and potential treatments for esports athletes.
Eye Fatigue and Computer Vision Syndrome: One of the most common complaints among esports athletes is eye fatigue. Spending long hours fixated on a computer screen can lead to computer vision syndrome, which includes symptoms such as blurry vision, low back pain, and tension headaches. Proper ergonomics, including monitor positioning, reducing glare, and regular eye exercises, can help alleviate these symptoms.
Neck and Back Dysfunction: Esports athletes often experience neck and back pain due to prolonged sitting and poor posture during gameplay. Forward displacement of the head compared to the spine puts excessive strain on the neck and back muscles, leading to musculoskeletal imbalances and headaches. Stretching, strengthening exercises, and osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) techniques can help manage and reduce pain in these areas.
Upper Extremity Dysfunction: Shoulder pain and hand/wrist discomfort are common issues among esports athletes. Poor posture and repetitive movements during gaming contribute to these problems. Educating athletes about proper posture and recommending exercises to strengthen the relevant muscles can mitigate the risk of upper extremity injuries. OMM techniques, rest, immobilization, and medication may be prescribed for specific injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Metabolic Dysregulation: Esports athletes often spend several hours practicing, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. Prolonged sitting can have negative effects on cardiovascular and peripheral vascular health. Physicians should counsel athletes on the importance of regular physical activity and offer guidelines for daily steps and aerobic exercise. Additionally, nutrition habits should be assessed to ensure a balanced diet and avoid excessive consumption of energy drinks and supplements.
Circadian Rhythm: Exposure to blue light emitted by computer monitors can disrupt sleep patterns and negatively impact sleep quality. Esports athletes should be educated about proper sleep hygiene, such as limiting blue light exposure before bedtime. The use of blue light-blocking lenses and validated sleep questionnaires can aid in addressing sleep-related issues.
Mental Health: Internet gaming disorder (IGD) is a concern for esports athletes, with estimates suggesting its prevalence in approximately 5 million individuals in the US. Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and alexithymia are associated with IGD, and gender and game type can influence the manifestation of these conditions. Screening tools and assessments can help identify and manage mental health disorders, and referral to mental health professionals may be necessary.
Conclusion: Osteopathic physicians play a vital role in promoting esports medicine. By addressing the unique concerns faced by these athletes, including musculoskeletal injuries, metabolic dysregulation, sleep disturbances, and mental health disorders, physicians can provide comprehensive care. Implementing interventions such as proper ergonomics, exercise regimens, OMM techniques, and mental health screenings can significantly improve the health and performance of esports athletes.
Clinician Takeaways in the context of esports medicine:
By understanding and addressing these specific health concerns, osteopathic physicians can play a vital role in promoting the health, well-being, and performance of esports athletes.
Zwibel H, DiFrancisco-Donoghue J, DeFeo A, Yao S. An Osteopathic Physician’s Approach to the Esports Athlete. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2019 Nov 1;119(11):756-762. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2019.125. PMID: 31657829.
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