Video games and competitive gaming, known as eSports, is a competition where two or more human players compete with a defined set of rules and are becoming increasingly popular as a recreational activity in society. The industry is on the rise, with an estimated 1.1 billion viewers watching professional eSports activities in 2020. ESport events like The Internationals (Dota 2) are attracting thousands of spectators in the arenas hosted in and by millions of online viewers. Sports have always been advocated as a way to improve public health. Unlike most traditional sports that require varying degrees of physical exertion, professional and amateur eSports players spend most of their time sitting in front of computer monitors and other types of screens during training and competitions. The most popular eSports games, such as DOTA 2 (a multiplayer online battle arena), League of Legends (a multiplayer online battle arena), NBA2K22 (a basketball simulation game), FIFA 23 (a football simulation game) and Counter-Strike Global Offensive (a first-person shooter multiplayer online game), are typically played by gamers who sit around, with minimal body movement other than the arms and the head.
Performing tasks while sitting in front of a device screen is considered as sedentary behaviour. An eSports athlete spends a considerable amount of time in these passive activities. Bad posture sustained from prolonged hours of gaming can lead to neck and back pain, as experienced by over forty per cent of eSports athletes. The average eSports athlete practices more than ten hours daily when leading up to competitions, exposing the eyes to excessive screen time, which in some cases can lead to screen insomnia, as reported by Carter et al. (2016). Furthermore, prolonged gaming sessions can lead to unhealthy dietary patterns, with increased glucose and caffeinated beverage consumption. These eSport athletes undergo gruelling training sessions and competitions, which could lead to stress and other mental health issues.
A vast majority of eSports players support views that improvements to overall fitness, sleep habits and nutritional intake have positively affected their eSports performance (Rudolf et al., 2020). ESports teams should look into developing fitness programs that aim to reduce pressure, burnout and anxiety, focusing on improving mental health, sleep patterns and the social well-being of eSports players to strengthen the teams’ overall competitive performance. Developing training strategies that focus on reducing sedentary behaviour, focusing on mental health and translating gaming activities and movement skills into real-world sports activities can help improve eSports players’ health. These athletes are not only competing at top levels but are also followed by millions around the world. Hence, it is crucial to set a good example and promote mental and physical health, even if they don’t need it to excel at their sport.
What do you think about the health hazards related to eSports? Have you been affected by some of the adverse effects of gaming? If yes, what have you done to improve your health? Let us know in the comments section about your experience.