There are far too many comparisons thrown around between sports and esports, however, the importance of player health and well-being certainly warrants the overlap.
Much like top professional sports athletes, maintaining peak condition is key to a long and healthy career. However, given that esports was thrust into professionalism at a breakneck pace, it’s only recently that the sector has started truly prioritising the physical and mental health of players.
‘Injuries happen’ is often a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in traditional sport, with clubs sometimes spending millions to try and mitigate this saying. According to sports performance analytics company Catapult, Premier League football clubs paid around £166m to injured players in the 2018/19 season, highlighting why injury prevention is a high priority on my teams’ list. However, within esports the topic of injuries has only started to be discussed. The after-effects of esports’ ‘grind’ nature have started to surface through a growing number of high-profile retirements.
Popular Call of Duty player Thomas ‘ZooMaa’ Paparatto announced his retirement from esports in 2021 in his mid 20’s following ongoing wrist and thumb problems. “Playing through the weakness and pain in my hand just isn’t possible anymore”, highlighted ZooMaa in a Twitter statement announcing his retirement.
Moreover, League of Legends star Jian ‘Uzi’ Zi-Hao temporarily retired from the scene in 2020 following wrist injuries, among other complications, sustained throughout his career. Despite making a comeback in 2022, the player is currently on an ‘indefinite’ break from competitive play.
Through these unfortunate accounts, alongside many more (League of Legends’ Hai and Dota 2’s Fear, among others), organisations and companies have put a greater emphasis on protecting players through a variety of solutions.
Alongside coaching, player performance guidance and health research developments, tailored equipment could become vital components to help support professional athletes.
“Wrist injuries and other repetitive strain injuries are a growing concern within the sector because esports players frequently engage in repetitive hand and wrist movements during gaming sessions, which can lead to strain and overuse injuries, commented Oskar ‘Dodde’ Ödmark, the Founder of gaming product provider Flashe Gaming.
He continued: “These movements are often required for quick and precise movements in games, and players may be required to perform them for prolonged periods without rest. This, amongst many other things, leads to lactic acid buildup in the muscles and joints.”
Founded in 2018, Ödmark came up with the idea of ergonomic, performance-enhancing gaming products after sustaining a shoulder injury in 2016. Since then the company has developed a range of products centred around its patented Flashe Performance Technology (FPT™). This includes a gaming sleeve, hoodie and glove with PTFE (Teflon), all with the intention to produce quality equipment that aim to assist injury prevention and increase performance.
How can equipment help reduce injuries?
According to Ödmark, wrist supports and other performance clothing items can help reduce the risk of injury in multiple ways. One of the more talked about benefits includes adding support that puts less strain on joints. Moreover, the use of compression can help blood flow and optimised equipment can reduce friction, both of which are particular benefits when esports athletes compete or train for long periods of time.
Certain performance clothing can also help improve posture, which is crucial for occupations that are heavily stationary. Moreover, moisture-wicking capabilities that are found in the sleeves benefits players who are competing or training throughout the summer period.
Despite the benefits of tailored equipment being apparent — and arguably as important as products such as performance-focused esports peripherals — Ödmark believes that there are still more discussions that need to take place when it comes to injury prevention.
He explained: “Esports players are just as susceptible to injuries as traditional athletes, and the repetitive strain injuries that are common in esports can have long-term consequences if not properly addressed. Additionally, Esports players may also be at risk for other health issues like eye strain, sleep disturbances, and mental health concerns.
“It is important for the Esports industry to prioritise injury prevention and promote healthy habits for players. This could include initiatives like incorporating ergonomic design into gaming equipment, providing regular breaks during gaming sessions, and encouraging players to maintain healthy habits outside of gaming, like going to the gym.”
The power of collaboration
One of Flashe Gaming’s most notable partnerships is with European powerhouse G2 Esports, with the collaboration again heavily focused on promoting healthy habits and injury prevention strategies for esports athletes. Flashe Gaming will provide its range of products to the organisation, thus enabling G2 to leverage Flashe’s technology. Both companies will also work closely together to further understand the physical demand of esports at the top level.
Speaking to Esports Insider, Erwin Del Castillo, G2 Esports’ Licensing Manager, highlighted that the deal is centred around “providing the best gaming accessories” for its fans. Moreover, the organisation intends to introduce a new range of Flashe Gaming sleeves in the future.
He added: “With a new product on the horizon, our fans can look forward to trying out what we have in store. This collaboration is all about enhancing the gaming experience for our fans, so don’t miss out!”
In order to continue developments that are currently being made with regard to health and well-being in esports, collaboration is crucial. Partnerships not only enable players to use equipment or services, but provide a litmus test for these companies to better understand the environment and, as result, improve its product. There are also the educational benefits that some of these partnerships come with, with health and well-being content being created to not only benefit professional players, but the average gamer.
“Just as athlete wellness is key in traditional sports, it plays an important role in competitive performance in esports,” Chang-Hyun Ko, Team Liquid’s Director of Performance, told Esports Insider when the Thorne partnership was announced. “Grinding a game for hours on end is taxing both mentally and physically.
Flashe Gaming’s Founder added: “While esports is a rapidly growing industry, the health and safety of players should not be overlooked.”
So what more can be done?
For Flashe Gaming, it has identified a hole in the market when it comes to esports-optimised equipment. “Currently, there is a huge lack of accessories for gamers in terms of products that actually help with performance and injury reduction while gaming,” Ödmark said.
As a result, the company has created a range of products that look to reduce the chance of injury. According to Flashe Gaming, some of the company’s popular products are the Xsleeve Gen II and its HoodX gaming hoodie. When asked about how some of these products can prevent injury Ödmark highlighted that the gaming sleeve helps relax muscles during sessions due to the sleeve’s use of compression and palm protection. This ultimately benefits blood circulation and, in turn, provide more oxygen to the muscles and joints.
Meanwhile, Flashe Gaming’s original Gaming Glove provides rotation support, reducing friction and has an embedded incline to ensure that the wrist is at a better angle towards the mouse.
When making these products, however, Flashe Gaming’s founder highlighted that it’s crucial that the equipment also serves to increase performance. “Only making products and equipment that will reduce the risk of injury will not make usage of those products very likely, but by combining this with performance-enhancing features will probably make the majority of gamers interested.”
Of course, having tailored equipment shouldn’t be the only course of action organisations and players need to take into consideration. Other solutions such as education, research, coaching and proper training are crucial elements. However, there are also more and more products being tailored specifically for performance as esports continues to professionalise, similar to how a golfer will have a specific make of club. Ultimately, Flashe’s vision is to become the golf glove of gaming.
As such, now is the time to implement more health-focused solutions into these products while this equipment starts to rise. Injuries will just happen, however, with new developments and a focus on health in esports, hopefully, they happen less.
Supported by Flashe Gaming