Esports isn’t a physical industry compared to what players put their bodies through in traditional sports like basketball and football. However, it still takes an incredible toll, and when gaming injuries occur, sometimes they can cause careers to crumble.
Long-time professional Call of Duty player Tommy “ZooMaa” Paparatto of the New York Subliners announced that he would “no longer compete in competitive Call of Duty in the foreseeable future.”
He stated on Twitter: “Not sure if many of you remember, but a few years back while on FaZe, I struggled with weakness in my thumb/wrist and needed surgery. Going through that process of getting healthy again was one of the hardest things I ever had to do both physically and mentally, which led to a lot of stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, the injury has returned.”
Much like traditional athletes, esports competitors can end up with damaged careers due to injuries. It’s an issue that hasn’t often been highlighted, but it’s a reality many players face.
“Swiping a mouse across a desk doesn’t look quite as dramatic as bicycle kicking a ball into a net, so I don’t watch a professional CS:GO player pull off an impossibly precise flick shot and think, ‘Woah, I hope their wrist is OK after that one!’” wrote PC Gamer writer Morgan Park. “Except, that’s not an unreasonable concern. Esports players place a lot of strain on their hands and arms on a daily basis, and injuries are actually pretty common.”
It’s a dark spot in esports that companies and organizations are trying to prevent and combat (go check out our Ritual Motion skins). However, it’s a personal awareness that is desperately needed.
“One of the reasons it’s easy to ignore gaming-related injuries is because they’re usually invisible,” Park continued. “Even as a casual Siege player, I’ll often ignore the light cramping I feel in my mouse hand after hours of playing. Mild palm pain doesn’t register as a problem in my head—it’s more annoying than anything.”
But for some, injuries carry a lingering weight. In ZooMaa’s case, while he still hopes to remain with the New York Subliners, it could mean a forced retirement from the competitive side of Call of Duty.
“Playing through the weakness and pain in my hand just isn’t possible anymore,” he stated. “I don’t enjoy competing when I can’t be the ZooMaa everyone knows and loves, and [I] feel like it’s not fair to myself or to my team to go through all that again, potentially causing more damage to my hand. It breaks my heart to step away from a game I put my heart and soul into every single day for eight years.”
Early retirement due to injuries could become an even more prominent issue as esports continue to grow into a mainstream source of entertainment. Compared to traditional sports, the lifetime of an esports career can be microscopic.
In the NBA, LeBron James is 35 years old and still competing. Currently, the oldest professional player in Call of Duty is James “Clayster” Eubanks at 28.
ZooMaa is only 25.
While esports organizations are beginning to take the steps to help prevent injuries due to repetitive motion, it’s still a conversation that needs to be discussed. The esports industry has grown into a powerhouse. It’s time to take care of the people that run it.