Esports Medicine: Care of the Esports Athlete

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Esports Medicine: Care of the Esports Athlete

Esports, the world of competitive gaming, has witnessed explosive growth in recent years. With this rise in popularity comes the need for specialized healthcare to support the well-being and performance of esports athletes. This article published in Current Sports Medicine Reports explores the field of esports medicine, with topics ranging from eye health, disorders of lower/upper extremity and low back pain, as well as the importance of fitness, nutrition and metabolic health in esports.

Understanding Lower Extremity Injuries:
While upper extremity injuries in esports are often linked to repetitive microtrauma, lower extremity injuries are more commonly caused by prolonged sitting. Players may only notice the pain when it becomes intense or at the end of a gaming session. Common lower extremity injuries in esports include lumbar spine issues, lower crossed syndrome, tendinopathies, compressive neuropathies, and deep venous thrombosis. Designing an effective lower extremity rehabilitation program requires consideration of sitting surface, duration of sitting, and other activities outside of gaming.

Low Back Pain and esports:
Mechanical low back pain affects a significant portion of the population, and esports athletes are particularly susceptible due to poor posture and ergonomics in gaming spaces. Back pain is a prevalent complaint among esports players, and they face a higher risk of conditions such as spondylosis, disc degeneration, and radiculopathy. Proper examination and assessment of posture, spinal curvature, and muscle imbalances are essential. Exercise programs should target muscles associated with posture, including the back, trunk, hips, and thighs, to increase range of motion, reduce pain, and improve core stability. Ergonomic evaluation of gaming setups and periodic breaks to change positions are also crucial for prevention and recovery.

Nutrition and Metabolic Health:
esports athletes often engage in prolonged sedentary activities, and their gaming environment may contribute to poor dietary choices. Inadequate nutrition practices can exacerbate metabolic dysregulation, insulin resistance, and obesity, with potential implications for cognitive and psychomotor performance. Increased sugar and caffeine intake through energy drinks is a common issue. It is recommended to consume nutrient-dense calories while minimizing added sugars and saturated fats. Timing meals, avoiding large meals, and individualizing portions based on preferences are also important. The use of supplements, such as caffeine, should be approached with caution due to varying individual responses and potential adverse effects. As far as fitness goes even recreational gamers can benefit from taking walking breaks during gameplay. Just 6 minutes of walking in the middle of a 2-hour gaming session has been shown to improve processing speed and executive function. In a study, 70% of participants perceived that the short walking break positively impacted their gaming performance.

Case Follow-Up and Conclusion:
A case study highlights the successful management of bilateral trigger finger in an esports athlete through corticosteroid injections and activity modification. As esports medicine continues to evolve, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to understand the unique factors affecting esports athletes and work collaboratively with them. Furthermore, research on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in esports is needed to promote a more inclusive and equitable environment.

Esports medicine is an emerging field that aims to address the specific healthcare needs of competitive gamers. Lower extremity and low back pain are common issues, primarily caused by prolonged sitting and poor posture. Implementing proper rehabilitation programs, ergonomic evaluations, and exercise routines can help prevent and manage these injuries. Additionally, nutrition and metabolic health play a significant role in supporting optimal performance and preventing metabolic dysregulation. As the esports industry continues to grow, it is essential to prioritize the well-being of esports athletes and advance research in this evolving field.

Law, Adrienne MS, DO1; Ho, Garry MD, FACSM, FAMSSM, FAAFP, RMSK, CIC1,2; Moore, Melita MD3. Care of the Esports Athlete. Current Sports Medicine Reports 22(6):p 224-229, June 2023. | DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000001077

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