Did you know competitive gaming is now a $1.5 billion industry (the NHL is a $2-3 billion industry)? Did you know that 50% of competitive college eSports players have persistent back pain? Did you know that nobody has academically studied the long-term use of game controllers on wrist and hand issues?
Enter the new science of esports medicine. Growing numbers of physicians and physiatrists are starting to study this field. Enter new medicine programs like the New York Institute of Technology’s esports medicine program, Cleveland Clinic, GamerDoc, and others. They are starting to study, publish, and work with the unique injuries and problems that competitive gamers encounter.
Data revealed that the players’ trained an average of 5 to 10 hours per day with many reporting physical injury. Common physical complaints included eye fatigue (56%), neck and back pain (42%), wrist pain (36%) and hand pain (32%). Only about 2% of them sought medical attention.
This is an interesting field of study – because gamers are basically the accelerated version of your average office worker. Studies on competitive gamers seem (at least to my eyes) to have the same kind of injuries that long-time office workers and programmers like myself experience. Perhaps studies on these players can reveal some improvements for all computer users.
Some of the tricks I have learned over time, though I only have anecdotal evidence. I started having some wrist discomfort when I was using the exact same mouse at work and home. I loved the mouse, but I realized I was now using the same hand hold not for 8 hours a day, but 12-15 hours. I swapped mice on my work computer, attended to hourly stretches, and the problem went away. 15 years later, and still don’t have a problem. It’s harder to have a repetitive injury if you’re not repeating the exact same motions by using very different input devices.
- Use completely different makes, models, and styles of keyboards and mice on all your systems. Example: I have a lighter touch Steelcase keyboard and simple and large 2 button wheel mouse for my work computer. I use a Corsair gaming keyboard and 7 button Logitech gaming mouse for my home pc. Each laptop has one of those low profile keyboards and a wireless portable Logitech mouse. They are as different as I can make them in spacing, pressure, hand size, etc.
- When working, stop every 1-2 hours (60 min is best) and stretch your hands, massage your forearms, and move your neck/shoulders/arms. There’s lots of techniques – but find REPUTABLE medical stretches (your company has probably paid a bunch of money to consultant firms to give training. Use it – because those people teach techniques that withstand lawsuits).
- Support your wrists and mouse hand and arm. I love the bead-filled IMAK Ergo wrist and IMAK keyboard rests. I actually prefer the normal ones without the non-skid backing as you can move them around easier.
- Get regular monthly massages for neck, shoulders, back and especially your arms and hands.
- Replace your mice/keyboard with new ones every 1-2 years – with completely different makes/models. Even if they are fine.
- Have reasonable physically regime/fitness – base level fitness improves and helps all kinds of injuries. Unlike mechanical devices, our bodies actually require a regular amount of physical work. Sitting around for long periods hurts us.