A torn knee ligament, shoulder surgery and now wrist injuries can be added to the list of career threatening injuries to those making a living playing video games. In the wake of the sudden retirement of League of Legends pro Hai “Hai” Lam where he specifically cites an ongoing wrist injury, it may be time to re-examine our thoughts on esports competitors as athletes. Repetitive strain injuries from tennis elbow to carpal tunnel effect athletes and esports competitors alike.
The United State government already formally recognizes some esports competitors as athletes by granting multiple P-1A visas, given specifically to athletes. While certainly not a normal athletic workload, esports at the highest level has nonetheless produced a long list of injuries, most notably in the wrist and neck, for years.
In StarCraft II, injuries have forced out arguably the best player in the five year history of the game, Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun. The four time champion of the Global Star League is the third highest earner in prize money with over $400,000 in the bank for his tournament showings. Mvp’s career was derailed when pains in his neck caused numbness in his shoulders and arms.
Canadian player and at one point arguably the best non-Korean player in the world Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn was temporarily forced away from the game to allow her wrists to recover.
Popular player Shawn “Sheth” Simon was also felled by injuries, citing in a forum post that pain in his hands have prevented him from playing anything more than a handful of matches per week.
The world of esports is in an awkward position. While getting ESPN2 airtime on a Sunday evening with a Heroes of the Storm collegiate aptly named “Heroes of the Dorm” match is a welcome sight to esports fans as is the emerging scenes across various games, the lack of team infrastructure is alarming. Without any sort of players union or dedicated medical staff, the players lack protection from injuries that have already ended or shortened multiple careers.
(Header image via Wikipedia)
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