Growing concern over health standards in e-sports has prompted a new federation to pledge to address the problem, as players fall victim to conditions ranging from wrist injuries to obesity, stress and diabetes.
The retirement of top Chinese player Jian Zihao, better known by his gaming handle “Uzi,” sent tremors through the booming sport, whose revenues are predicted to reach US$1.1 billion this year, according to industry analyst Newzoo.
The 23-year-old, hailed as an “icon” of the League of Legends game, stepped away from e-sports in June, saying that “chronic stress, obesity, irregular diet, staying up late and other reasons” had given him Type 2 diabetes. He also had a hand injury.
However, Uzi’s case is far from isolated in a sport where professional players can perform up to 500 moves a minute, according to the American Osteopathic Association, and train for hours a day.
A report published last year by the association said that e-sports’ “sedentary nature” means that “musculoskeletal injuries of the neck, back and upper extremities” are likely for athletes, also flagging concerns over gaming addiction and social behavior disorders.
Attempts to join the Olympic Games have so far faltered, for reasons including a lack of cohesion between competing companies, the changing nature of video games and basic questions over whether gaming can be considered a sport.
Chris Chan, president of the Global E-sports Federation (GEF), a new body backed by Chinese gaming giant Tencent, said that credibility is a problem, with health and well-being being an area that needs attention.
“It’s about time that in e-sports we looked into all this,” he said.
The Singapore-based group, which launched in December last year and focuses on “holistic health,” has set up an “education, culture and wellness” commission to guide its work, Chan said.
“We’ve got some very prominent doctors,” he said.
Coaches do sometimes think of health. Ahead of e-sports’ debut last year in the Southeast Asian Games, a regional multi-sport tournament, physical exercise was part of regular training for many teams.
However, Chan said that competition between industry bodies means that vital issues, from player well-being to corruption, are not being fully addressed.
“We’re all pulling in different directions now,” he said.
GEF aims to be a “platform for the ecosystem to bring some credibility to the sports,” Chen added.
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