It’s a multi-million dollar industry – moving as quickly as its games. The world of e-sports has lured players from around the world.
But intense competition means a lot of stress and strain. And that has gamers seeking help from an unlikely source.
CGTN’s Frances Kuo explains.
Dozens of young people have gathered at a gym one night in Potomac, Maryland, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. But in place of treadmills and barbells are controllers, monitors and video games.
A regional gaming tournament was hosted by The Game Gym, a youth training center for e-sports players. It’s one of the few of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area and staffed in part by team manager, Joe Bieda.
“You don’t have to be 6’8″ to be a great e-sports athlete,” explained Bieda. “You can be just an unassuming kid…or can be a 16 –year-old kid and win $3 million in a Fortnite tournament.”
That 16-year-old is American Kyle Giersdorf who won the top prize at a world competition this year. To reach the top, he reportedly practiced for up to eight hours a day, at least five days a week.
Revenue from e-sports is expected to exceed one billion dollars next year. And as the stakes get higher, so does the physical toll on players.
“It usually presents as back of the hand pain for a lot of our players,” said Dr. Caitlin McGee, a physical therapist. “A common upper cross syndrome would be tightened shortened pec muscles and a weakened upper back which pulls you into that typical rounded or hunched posture.”
McGee is a physical therapist at an outpatient clinic by day. But for 20 additional hours a week, she works exclusively with gamers.
McGee often travels to tournaments like the one at the Game Gym, providing on-site consultations and sessions before, during and after competitions. Her portable office consists of a stretcher and various equipment, like Theraputty and hand-strengtheners.
McGee is a prominent physical therapist in the gaming industry and one of the few in the United States. She developed her niche five years ago when she noticed what players were doing wrong – not at their game but to their bodies.
“I saw the ergonomics, and they were not great,” said McGee.
McGee says that’s starting to change as more people recognize e-sports as a sport. She should know – she’s a gaming enthusiast herself.
“I think for a long period of time gaming’s been kind of looked at as just a casual hobby, but there is also this really strong, really robust, really competitive scene,” said McGee. “They know as much about their game as any football player or soccer player knows about their sport.”
Gamer Martin Lee says McGee has been a welcome sight, helping with his hand pain and providing him with a whole new outlook on his game.
“You’ve got to be healthy if you want to be good,” said Lee. On average, gamers are young, in their teens and early 20s. Physical issues have some burning out early.
“It shortens their careers, and they have to stop playing,” said Bieda.
It’s what McGee hopes to prevent by showing these players how to change their game on an entirely different level.
“I’ve got this really amazing opportunity to be involved with a whole bunch of people who are super-duper passionate about what they do and who want to learn to do it better. So if I can do anything to help with doing it better, I’m happy to do that,” said McGee.
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