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Health Advice For Becoming Successful Esports Athletes

Our pros lend wellness expertise for everyone in esports enduring long stints of sitting and gaming

Thom Fain
Mar 24, 2021

As esports players begin to earn scholarships and big contracts – multi-million dollar deals, in some cases at the pro level – debate about player health and fitness is shifting into high gear. No longer is the concern just about burnout, but concerns are shifting toward musculoskeletal and cardio conditioning as well. 

It’s created a niche subclass of doctors and athletic trainers – such as Brian Finn, the  Lead Athletic Trainer for Northside Hospital Sports Medicine in Atlanta who partners with 2K Sports and a number of esports organizations on best practices.

“When I'm working with athletes we test them before, after, and during the season,” Finn told us at a recent PlayVS workshop. “And what we're looking at is functional movements – we're looking at strength training, we're looking to develop these athletes. And that's just as important now with esports as it is with any other sport crossover,” he said.

The Importance Of Conditioning In Esports

Competitive gaming requires an intense focus on the craft, but also the ability to endure mental and physical stressors throughout weeks of routine practices, scrimmages and matches. It can add up to well north of 50 hours sitting, making it important to address both physical and mental health in the hours outside of gaming. 

The reality of esports competition also points to the importance of ergonomics, and how better desk & chair combos can result in better physical health.

“Ergonomics is central to prevention of known health issues,” said Dr. Lindsey Migliore, a pioneer in esports health & wellness. “If we have a 16 year-old with intractable back pain and wrist pain, there's something wrong. We're seeing kids develop these habits from a young age which points to issues like thoracic kyphosis. They're hunched forward and their neck is pushed forward in a head-forward posture. [And if unaddressed], that stability and that lengthening of the back muscles, the tightening of the chest muscles is only going to get worse as they get older.”

These factors stress the importance of stretching exercises for esports athletes, in addition to making time for regular cardio and getting an adjustable ergonomic chair and desk setup to maintain the best wrist and back posture possible. Not only that, but our brains – the number one asset to an esports athlete – will also benefit. 

“If you exercise, it's going to make you better at video gaming,” said Dr. Migliore. “Exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins have these wonderful effects on memory, on learning and on reaction time. There are studies upon studies that show the beneficial effects on cognitive performance of exercise.”

How Athletes And Coaches Can Build Healthy Habits Right Away

As high school and college programs continue moving on from clubs and LAN parties filled with pizza and soda to legitimate programs of athletes with an eye toward the pros, a number of methods to incorporate healthy habits into the structure of our schedules have emerged. And, many of them have been lifted from other sports.

Chief among them: stretching or warmups, regularly scheduled breaks and step-by-step fitness routines that allow players to perform bodyweight exercises in their immediate environments.

“Brian comes from a rugby background, and nothing is more grittier than rugby,” said Cooper Fiscus-van Rossum, a Georgia high school esports coach. “I come from World of Warcraft – but when we start talking about health goals and athletics departments and what it means to be a healthy human and athlete, we start speaking a common language.”

Similarly to traditional athletes, esports players should also prioritize diet, sleep and hydration. But to combat the sorts of aches and injuries that stem from prolonged sitting unique to competitive gamers, it’s important to instill a warmup routine into each session. 

“Your dynamic warmup for esports should include a little bit of pregame exercise like planks, maybe some pushups, or a wall hold,” said Finn.

Our Super Coaches and Game Changers tend to agree that starting small and building on these practices will add up to optimal performance. And, while we encourage being body positive, it’s also important to note that you can create a fitness regimen one step at a time without critiquing yourself or your team. 

“Burnout happens because of poor training schedules,” said Dr. Migliore. “Esports athletes should integrate some sort of physical activity into practices, either before or after. Whether that’s going for a walk, or taking a break halfway through practice to get up and do jumping jacks, or burpees.”