Pro gaming has come a long way since Dennis “Thresh” Fong emerged as the first professional gamer in the mid-1990s.
If you go pro today, you can expect to sign onto an Esports team and compete in front of thousands of fans for massive cash prizes. Even colleges now offer Esports scholarships, as Twitch has brought competitive gaming from niche to the mainstream.
However, gaming poses some unique health hazards. Pro gamer Faze ZooMaa had to retire due to a thumb injury, and China’s most famous eSports competitor, Uzi, also had to step away from LoL due to a gaming disorder that caused him to develop type 2 diabetes.
Of course, early retirements happen in all sports. But, as a pro gamer, you need to be hyper-aware of the major health risks associated with gaming and how to combat health concerns.
As a pro gamer, you probably spend thousands of hours every year in online lobbies and arenas. Unfortunately, these virtual spaces aren’t made to be relaxing or meditative. They’re more like an online version of Las Vegas, as unlocking Battle Passes and leveling up are usually accompanied by loud noises and bright lights.
Spending so much time in a loud and bright virtual space can cause you to have an excessively “busy” mind — even when you’re not playing. This kind of overstimulation can cause your mental health to spiral and even lead to burnout.
To avoid this, consider starting a daily mindful walking practice. Mindful walking can lower your stress levels, boost your creativity, and may even help with conditions like insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
To take a mindful stroll, leave things like your phone at home and try to stick to safe, well-maintained paths in parks or neighborhood streets. There’s no “right” way to walk mindfully, but try to focus on your senses as you walk — what do you see, feel, smell, or hear? If you’re struggling to focus on mindfulness while walking, consider using an app like Insight Timer or Calm that includes guided walking meditations.
Practicing mindful walking is also a good way to calm your mind before or after a tournament. Taking in the fresh air can help you think more clearly, and spending time away from blue screens is great for your eye health. Just be sure to choose a safe path, so you can focus more on centering yourself rather than dodging potholes.
Blue Light Glasses
As a pro gamer, you’ve probably been told that gaming too much will give you square eyes and bad vision. While square eyes fall firmly in the category of “Old Wives’ Tales”, spending excessive amounts of time looking at screens can cause computer vision syndrome.
Computer vision syndrome is a type of eye strain that causes eye fatigue, dry eyes, and headaches. It’s particularly common in gamers because gaming requires you to sit close to your monitor and in front of blue-light emitting screens for lengthy periods.
Blue light glasses are currently in vogue amongst white-collar workers who spend their entire workdays staring at screens. Proponents claim that blue light glasses can cut down on glare and help the body stay calm while being exposed to an artificial blue light source. In reality, evidence for blue light glasses is mixed, and habitual changes are probably more effective.
Between games, try to stand up and spend time looking around your room instead of your screen. You can even turn your monitor off while waiting in pre-game lobbies (provided you aren’t the party host). You should also try to practice more in the late morning and afternoon, rather than at night as artificial blue light interrupts your sleep and may make it hard to drift off.
If you’re really struggling with eye strain, then you should see a doctor or specialist optician. Seeing the right healthcare provider can make a massive difference to your eye health, and help you alleviate symptoms like dry eyes and insomnia.
Almost all professional athletes have a strong bond with their doctors and physical therapists. Whether you’re hooping or rock climbing, sports take a toll on the body and can result in anything from arthritis to muscular imbalances. Pro gaming is no different — even if you’re not running, swimming, or jumping, you’re still repeating the same movements over and over.
A good physical therapist should be aware of the musculoskeletal perils of gaming, as the physical strain of gaming is three times more intense than comparable activities like office work and playing music.
While a physical therapist can’t improve your drop shot or map awareness, they can assess the ergonomics of your setup and recommend exercises and stretches that counteract the strain of sitting for lengthy periods. These changes won’t necessarily improve your gameplay, but they will help improve your longevity as a gamer.
Professional gaming places great strain on your mental and physical health. However, you can prevent most injuries and conditions from developing by taking a proactive approach to your health. In particular, consider hiring the services of a physical therapist who understands gaming and engage in regular mindfulness exercises to help improve your focus in-game and IRL.