The Future of Sports Could be Very Unhealthy
Paul Aitken considers the impact of eSports on our health.
eSports is the fastest rising sport in the world right now, with many predicting that it will one day topple football as the world's most popular sport. It seems like a far-fetched suggestion now, but when you consider that it has risen from nothing to become one of the world's most popular sports in just a few years, you begin to understand where they are coming from.
But one of the issues with eSports taking over the world of sport is that it is not a sport in the traditional sense. It requires skill, dexterity, timing and a lot of practice, but fitness is not a prerequisite. If you can stay awake for hours at a time staring at a computer screen and you can stay sharp throughout, then you have what it takes.
If this does indeed become the world's biggest sport, and it looks like it will, then these are the issues we need to fix before we spurn generations of unfit children.
Carpal Tunnel and Repetitive Strain Injury
As someone who has spent the better part of their adult life working behind a laptop, I know how damaging the constant typing and clicking can be. In my early days, I did not have any issues and did not pay any attention to ergonomic keyboards or even to beneficial writing positions. When I hit 25 I began getting searing pains in my right wrist and now, at 32, I have an issue with RSI that prevents me from doing a lot of things and flares up aggressively every now and then.
These problems are common with writers, but if you thought we had it bad wait until you see what competitive gamers are having to put up with. The constant pressure on their wrists from using keyboards and mice, often locked into single positions for hours on end, is leaving them with debilitating conditions before they hit their mid-20s.
Early pains should not be ignored, nor should tingling and pins and needles. These are early symptoms of CTS and RSI. Use ergonomic setups, take a break, and build the muscles in your wrist when you are not playing.
Wrist strengtheners like the Powerball can be essential tools, but lifting weights also help as it builds strength. You should also try to stretch every now and then.
Gamers are young, but they are not necessarily athletes. They often have the mentality of typical youngsters, which is to say that they live on a diet of energy drinks, crisps and fast food. They are young, so they can get away with it for a while, but if they do this for some length of time then they could have serious health problems before they hit thirty.
If you combine the high levels of stress and pressure and the constant sitting and missing out on sleep with this diet, it can lead to a host of serious problems.
Take a look at these tips for staying healthy during long gaming sessions. There are gamers out there who advise on what you should be eating, drinking and more. They have been through it and have some good ideas on how to stay healthy.
Believe it or not, there is a drug issue in competitive gaming. There are currently no tests for performance enhancing drugs and there are no issues with steroids simply because there is nothing to be gained from drugs like that in this industry. But stimulants are rife.
They tend to focus on prescription stimulants that provide a prolonged high, keeping them awake for extended periods and giving them the extra boost, they need to stay alert when they would otherwise fade. Amphetamines like Adderall are popular and commonly abused, but right now the industry is still in the "is it or is not it" stage where everyone is hiding it and denying it and the problem never quite bubbles to the surface.
Young people will always experiment with drugs and if there is no testing and they believe these drugs will help them they will feel like they have no other choice. This is especially true if they believe everyone else is taking them, because they believe they need them to stop falling behind.
Only drug testing will stop these problems, but then you have to make allowances for the players who are taking drugs like this because they have ADHD, the players who are on other drugs for anxiety, depression and other psychological conditions. And when you start making those allowances then players will simply get a prescription for the performance-enhancing drugs they are taking.
This is one of those things that does not have an easy answer.
Lack of Exercise
Competitive gamers practice for long hours, often all day. For any other sports person, this would be fine, as that practice would involve some kind of intense activity that would keep them fit and strong by default. But for gamers, it causes their body more harm than good (as discussed above) and means they miss out on exercise.
They develop poor postures, leading to bad backs as well as wrists and when you combine this with the poor nutrition and drug use it puts a lot of pressure on their hearts.
On the one hand, they need to practice keeping up because it is a highly competitive industry and is only getting more competitive. But to stay healthy they need to take a break in order to exercise every now and then.
The only solution is for them to sit straighter, to slouch less and to find time to take a break in order to exercise. It does not take much. An occasional walk, some stretching and a little more intense exercise every couple of days should be all you need. During long practice sessions, there will be times when you are doing nothing but waiting for other players to act. Use this time to stand, stretch and work your muscles.
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About the Author
Paul Aitken is a freelance writer and the author of The Online Writer's Companion. He writes under several different pseudonyms and his work has featured on many of the web's biggest sites, including many major print publications in the UK and US.
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