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The Dark Side of E-Sports: Physical Injuries and Mental Breakdowns

For people looking to partake in professional gaming, you’ll want to educate yourself on the dark side of gaming for a living.

BY ANDREW DAVIS: E-sports has surged in popularity in recent years, with the industry on course to grow to $1.6 billion in size by 2023. While traditionally not viewed as an actual sport, e-sport athletes are increasingly suffering similar injuries to those experienced by traditional athletes such as basketball and football players.

For people looking to partake in professional gaming, you’ll want to educate yourself on the dark side of gaming for a living, which includes both extreme physical and mental strain.

What is E-Sports?

Electronic sports, or e-sports, describes organized video gaming where professional gamers compete against one another in tournaments. Much like in the physical sporting world, players compete for prestige and a monetary prize.

Tournaments can range in size with large-scale events taking place in packed out stadiums around the world with payouts amounting to millions of dollars.

The Physical Impact on E-Sport Athletes

First off, due to long hours of sitting and repetitive use of select small muscles, physical injuries are very common for E-Athletes. These can include carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain and computer vision syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Injuries to the hands and wrists are very common when it comes to e-sports due to the repetitive nature of video gaming.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the number one complaint for video gamers. It occurs when the carpal tunnel swells up and increases pressure on a nerve in the wrist. In turn this can cause a tingling or numbing sensation in the hand, wrist and fingers.

Another common symptom is pain and a weak thumb. Some people may experience difficulty when gripping. If treated early symptoms will go away naturally. However, severe cases can result in fine motor skill impairment and specialist surgery must be undertaken to fix the problem.

Doctor Levi Harrison, is an e-sport surgeon, says that the “extreme amount of play can be a catalyst for a shortened career due mainly to repetitive stress injuries as well as nerve and tendon issues”.

Back and Neck Related Issues

The sedentary nature of video gaming plus poor posture can lead debilitating injuries in the neck and back for pro gamers.

Gaming often involves being seated for an extended period of time, which can result in a lack of exercise. Poor posture such as slouching or looking down at a screen constantly adds tremendous pressure to the spine and neck. For these reasons, video gamers may experience muscle tension in the back as well as the neck and shoulders. When left unaddressed, these issues could lead to chronic back pain and sciatica.

Eye Strain

Extensive gaming sessions can have a negative impact on short term eye health. Computer vision syndrome can occur after staring at a screen for hours at a time. The symptoms include dry eyes, eye strain, blurred vision, headaches and pain in the neck and shoulders.

The Mental Impact on E-Sport Athletes 

Besides the physical injuries, e-athletes are also under intense mental pressure and subject to certain types of addictions.

Extreme Stress

Excessive gaming has been linked to everything from insomnia, depression and anxiety. 

According to a study by the University of Chichester, E-Sport athletes face similar levels of stress as pro athletes. 


The e-sports industry is a male dominated world. Although e-sports tournament teams can be made up of all sexes and, according to Mediakix, women are still being ostracized simply due to their gender.

In 2014, ‘Gamergate’ highlighted the serious issue of sexism within gaming and brought to light cases of harassment and abusive behavior towards women. Seven years on, the number of female gamers is on the rise but female participation in e-sport games is still low. According to VentureBeat, female involvement in Rainbow 6: Siege is 23 percent, in CS:GO it is 24 percent and in DOTA 2 it is just 20 percent.

Professional Gaming is a Job, not a Hobby

At the end of the day, the best way to prepare yourself as a professional gamer is to see it as a job. A lot of commitment is required to become successful at it, and there are similar health risks to manage compared to professional sports.

In other words, it’s not just fun and games.

Written by an Adult Gamer