My name is Jordan Tsai and I’m a doctor of physical therapy working with professional gaming organizations including Cloud9 and Evil Geniuses. I have treated players from numerous games including League of Legends, Fortnite, CS:GO, and Valorant. I am going to provide a series of educational articles each highlighting a specific issue I commonly see in gamers I work with.
Remember, this information is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific pathology and if you are in pain, you should seek your nearest health care professional for a detailed evaluation. The provided information is purely educational.
Do you ever get a sharp pain or soreness in the upper part of your forearm while playing computer games? One common problem I see in many gamers I work with is overuse of the extensor tendons. Before we get into how to prevent or fix this issue, you’ll probably need to understand why this happens.
Tendons are the structures that attach muscles to bones. When a muscle contracts, it pulls the tendon in order to move the bones in the desired direction. When people game using a mouse and keyboard, they are essentially using the extensor muscles to lift their fingers in a minimal range of motion thousands of times over hours. This is highly irritable to the tendons and can lead to inflammation or even damage if the stress is sustained for long enough.
One of the easiest ways to deal with this inflammation is to regularly take breaks. I’m not going to tell any gamer to stop playing, but we have to find ways to incorporate “microbreaks” into every gaming session. Every game has moments in which the player does not need to have their hands immediately on the keyboard or mouse.
When you’re in a loading screen or queueing into a lobby, it’s the perfect opportunity to stretch and move your body through full range of motion. This helps your joint and muscles reset and get ready for the next match!
What to do:
Wrist Extensor Stretch
This basic wrist extensor stretch here will reduce some of the tension you might feel after playing. You want to lightly pull down on your knuckles with the opposite hand to feel a stretch in the upper forearm. Hold the stretch for 15-30 sec and perform 2-3 times between each game.
Wrist Extensor Strengthening
Stretching alone will not prevent these issues in the future, however. It’s also important to strengthen these muscles to improve their endurance. I usually prescribe a resisted wrist extension using either a weight or a resistance band. You want to move your wrist slowly up and down under control (think about 3-5 sec up and down) for 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions. Note: I do not advise players to perform strengthening exercises between gaming sessions. This exercise should be done after you play so you don’t fatigue these muscles before you have to use them in-game.
Try these out to improve the mobility and endurance of these very important gaming muscles. If you’d like more exercises, healthy gaming tips, and even some gameplay clips, check out @respawn.therapy on Instagram!