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Wrist Pain to Paralysis: The Top 5 Gaming Injuries

Gaming is more than just a hobby; for many, it’s a lifestyle. But with the rise of competitive esports and marathon gaming sessions, there’s a dark side that often goes unnoticed: gaming-related injuries. These injuries can range from common musculoskeletal issues to rare, life-threatening conditions. Here’s a look at some of the top 5 gaming injuries, starting with the most common.

#1 Tendinopathy in the Wrist: The Most Common Gaming Injury

Tendonitis, particularly in the wrist, is the most frequent injury among gamers. An analysis of 41 collegiate varsity esports athletes revealed that wrist injuries were the most common, with 25 reported cases. This condition is often caused by repetitive motion and prolonged use of a mouse and keyboard.

Types of Wrist Pain in Gamers

We collected data from 749 gamers with wrist pain through our free wrist pain guides and these were the most commonly reported pain regions in the wrist, hand and forearm. 

Wrist Flexors: 301 cases

Wrist Extensors: 264 cases

Thumb Flexors: 125 cases

Thumb Extensors: 59 cases

The constant, repetitive movements required in gaming can lead to inflammation of the tendons, causing pain and can even result in surgery if left untreated.
There have been many notable pro-player retirements or extended hiatuses due to this condition.

Players like Hai, Uzi, Hax, ZooMaa, Huni and more. 

This is particularly tragic because oftentimes these conditions are reversible with appropriate load management and endurance exercises.

We have spent the past 10 years working in professional esports and have helped many professionals such as Doublelift, Elige, and Benjyfishy fix their wrist pain and keep their careers going! 

If you want to learn more about how to prevent a mild tendinopathy from turning into tendon degeneration I highly recommend checking out our free guides here

#2 Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) is a condition caused by compression of the nerves or blood vessels between the neck muscles or the pec muscles. Gamers who maintain rounded shoulders or forward head postures for extended periods are at risk. Symptoms include pain in the shoulders and neck, numbness and tingling in the fingers, and even swelling in the arm and hand. TOS can be debilitating, affecting a gamer’s ability to play and perform daily activities.

As physical therapists who work with gamers thoracic outlet syndrome is a common cause of numbness in the hands. Sometimes wrist pain is misdiagnosed as tendonitis when it is actually originating at the neck, this is one of the reasons why!

The underlying cause of thoracic outlet syndrome in gamers is decreased endurance of the postural endurance muscles of the neck and upper back so performing stability exercises for promoting an upright posture goes a long way for preventing and managing this condition. 

Check out these videos here for some strategies. 

In a case study by Physical Therapist Dr. Matt Hwu, a professional Call of Duty player named Assault experienced numbness in his right pinky during gaming, affecting his focus and gameplay. Diagnosed with neurologic thoracic outlet syndrome, nerve irritation in his neck and shoulder was identified due to poor posture during long gaming sessions. Through a tailored physical therapy program focusing on mobility, stability, and posture correction, Assault saw a gradual reduction in symptoms over five weeks, ultimately achieving complete resolution. The study highlights the importance of addressing ergonomic factors and incorporating targeted exercises to manage and prevent gaming-related injuries, along with the need for collaboration between healthcare professionals, coaches, and players in the esports environment.

#3 Sciatica

Sciatica is another condition that can affect gamers, especially those who sit for prolonged periods. This condition occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed, leading to severe pain that radiates from the lower back down to the legs. Extended gaming sessions without breaks can aggravate this condition, leading to chronic pain and discomfort. 

The piriformis muscle which runs over the sciatic nerve often gets irritated when it has to compensate from weak glute muscles. Glute weakness can stem from prolonged sitting which causes the piriformis to tighten and compress the sciatic nerve. 

To prevent this issue from occurring we recommend frequent breaks of 5 minutes of standing for every 45-60 minutes of gaming. We also recommend glute strengthening and piriformis stretching to prevent these muscle imbalances from occurring. 

#4 Paralysis: The Most Extreme Case

One of the most extreme cases of gaming injuries involved a gamer in China who became paralyzed from the waist down after a 20-hour nonstop gaming session at an internet cafe. This was likely caused by severe compression of the sciatic nerve due to prolonged sitting and lack of movement. This incident underscores the potential dangers of extreme gaming marathons.

#5 Pneumothorax: A Rare but Severe Injury

Pneumothorax, a condition where a lung collapses suddenly without trauma, is a surprisingly common injury among gamers and can occur due to prolonged periods of poor posture and shallow breathing which can cause pressure on the lung walls. This condition requires immediate medical attention and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

Esports athletes have surprisingly faced multiple instances of spontaneous pneumothorax. At least five prominent esports players have experienced this serious issue and we have personally treated several more pro players for this condition not named on this list. 

Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander

Song “Janus” Jun-hwa

Hai Du Lam

Matheus “Mylon” Borges

Kim “sC” Seung Chul

The condition often causes severe chest pain and shortness of breath due to air leaking into the space around the lung, necessitating immediate medical intervention in severe cases.

Several notable players have continued to compete despite their condition. For instance, Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander played through his third collapsed lung during a tournament, while Hai Du Lam played and even streamed from his hospital bed. 

This condition is most likely caused by a perfect storm of factors ranging from sedentary lifestyle, genetic predisposition, poor posture, and potential smoking habits all contributing to their susceptibility. Maintaining good health practices such as proper posture, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking may help mitigate some risk. 

#6 Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep Vein Thrombosis is a serious condition where blood clots form in the deep veins, usually in the legs. Prolonged immobility, such as marathon gaming sessions, increases the risk of DVT. In severe cases, these clots can travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. Symptoms of DVT include calf pain, warmth, redness, and swelling, while signs of a pulmonary embolism include shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, chest pain, and coughing. 

Real-Life Case: A Gamer’s Fatal Embolism

In a tragic incident Chris Staniforth, a 20-year-old British man, died from a blood clot after playing video games for up to 12 hours a day. He developed a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition where a clot forms in the deep veins of the legs.

Preventive Measures for Gamers

To avoid these injuries, gamers should:

Take Regular Breaks: Stand up, stretch, and walk around every hour.

Maintain Good Posture: Use ergonomic chairs and desks, and ensure your screen is at eye level.

Stay Active: Incorporate physical activities into your routine to counteract the effects of prolonged sitting and repetitive strain.

Stay Hydrated and Well-Nourished: Proper nutrition and hydration are essential for overall health.

Gaming can be an enjoyable and rewarding activity, but it’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to mitigate them. By understanding and addressing these issues, gamers can continue to enjoy their passion without sacrificing their health!

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