Esports gamers are just like regular athletes in that both go through a rigorous regimen of practice, game time and evaluation, along with a steady discipline of sleep, nutrition and exercise. Also similar to physical sports athletes is the length of their careers, which is often shorter than you might realize. Although there are some reasons for short careers that both physical and esports athletes share, there are also some sources that are specific to esports athletes.
Perhaps the biggest reason physical sport athletes retire is because of performance-stifling injuries. Even if gaming isn’t relatively physically demanding, using a keyboard and mouse for 6-8 hours every single day can lead to debilitating isolated injuries as well.
Some examples of such injuries can include carpal tunnel, where a nerve from the wrist to your hand becomes compressed, leading to hand numbness and the inability to control more delicate movements. Another example is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, also known as gamer’s thumb. Coming from repetitive use of a controller or phone, symptoms include pain and swelling at the base of the thumb, as well as pain turning the wrist.
Although injuries like carpal tunnel can be career-ending, it’s not an inevitable outcome of gaming. Regular stretching and rest can prolong, or even mitigate the onset of such injuries. For a more detailed explanation of the link between gaming and physical health, take a look at this article which breaks down the physical process of nutrition, injury and cooldown in esports.
Doing anything on a frequent basis for too long can easily lead to burnout, and gaming is no different. Burnout happens when you’re forced to complete a task without boundaries of how long or how much you have to do.
When you’re forced to spend all your waking moments on that task,, it not only leads to a poor work-life balance, but it also leaves little time for social or leisure time. When someone experiences burnout, performance inevitably suffers as a person can become unmotivated, bored, and unfocused.
Knowing that the esports scene is very competitive, esports organizations may often feel that they need to keep their players’ skills up to par with competitors. Because of this, it can be extremely tempting to prolong the hours of practice and to limit the amount of time away from the game.
However, when the hours are increased without regard for the mental and physical health of the players, it can easily lead to burnout regardless of how passionate players are towards the game. Because practices are often long enough to lead to burnout, players can often lose their passion for the game on a relatively quick basis, which leads to an early retirement.
If one wants to become a pro player, it’s important to set early habits to maintain a healthy lifestyle alongside your esports journey. Vanta Leagues strives to do just that by encouraging physical and mental health by implementing both a physical and mental warmup during each session. Our coaches are trained to facilitate mental and physical exercises that are also designed for players to do in gaming sessions outside practice. for more information, ,check out our offerings for individual players, teams or schools.
Compared to other non-sports careers, ,the peak performance age of athletes is relatively quite low at their mid 20s, and esports is no different. Because esports games are very fast paced, many of which are reflex-reliant, ,it can be difficult to maintain peak mental performance past your 20s.
Because a performance decline can start as quickly as 24 years old, it can be difficult to maintain your position as a skilled player when kids as early as 17 can join the organization with multiple years worth of potential improvement. Older players, either through coaches or themselves, can be pressured to practice longer hours just to keep up with younger players, which can also lead to burnout.
It’s worthy to note that many esports games aren’t just reflex reliant. There are many players significantly above the age of peak performance who still find success today. ,Players like Xsmithie do extremely well in League of Legends games through a wealth of game knowledge and a boatload of leadership experience while being 31 years old.
Games Become Obsolete or Discontinued
One unfortunate side effect of online games is that developers can cease updates to the game, or the player base of the game can fizzle out. One notable example is Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA similar to League of legends and DOTA. It amassed a decent following due to its accessibility in a genre that’s notoriously hard to learn. Unfortunately, ,the developers of the game decided to end the game’s esports scene in 2018, which meant all of its esports players were forced to abandon the game.
When esports gamers specialize in games that have short lifespans, the skills they have accrued in the game may not transfer to other games, which can lead to an abrupt ending to their esports career. Even if there are transferable skills, the amount of time it would take to return to an elite level might not be worth it, adding the fact that those players might not even be interested in the new games either.
Carlson is an ongoing League of Legends coach, writer and streamer at Vanta Leagues. With a Psychology and Counselling background, he hopes to highlight the mental benefits of team video games in his writing, as well as having a healthy mindset when playing ranked games.