Gamers spend many hours sitting in front of a computer screen. For this reason, professional gamers are increasingly aware of the importance of taking care of their health and habits in order to get the best results. Now is the time to convey this notion to those who follow eSports, especially teenagers, the ones who tend to find it harder to exercise self-control.
TEXT: ISABEL PRESTEL IMAGES: ISTOCK
It is possible that many of you reading this article still do not know what exactly eSports are. Nor have any notion of the level of interest and business they generate in our country. So, to give you some idea, we simply need to cite one of the figures mentioned in the White Paper on eSports in Spain, published in 2018 by the Spanish Video Games Association. That year alone, this sector moved 14.5 million euros. That same institution states that, at present in Spain, there are between 250 and 300 professional eSports players. But the most surprising aspect of all of this is the number of followers it is calculated who connect to watch others play, between enthusiasts and casual fans: it is estimated that, in 2021, this figure could reach 250 million viewers around the world.
These gamers are, in part, the new idols of the young – and not so young – kids. They earn a lot (some are millionaires), after turning their favorite hobby into a profession with a great future. However, getting to that level involves training for a great many hours to acquire the right skills to stand out from the rest. We are talking about the fact that those who become professionals, those aspiring to do so, and the spectator fans all spend a long time sitting in front of one or more screens. And that, of course, can pose serious health problems.
Luis Delgado Lozano, medical supervisor of the Medical Guidance Area at MAPFRE Spain, believes that this profession adversely affects several aspects of their health: “First of all, the bad postural habits and prolonged gaming sessions without a break: pain in the hand and fingers caused by tendinitis problems and even arthritis (most commonly in the thumb and index finger), carpal tunnel syndrome (which can cause neuromuscular damage in the hand), epicondylitis (or tennis elbow), headaches and back pain, resulting from muscular contractions at the cervical and lumbar spine level.” Moreover, Delgado points out that the long hours playing without breaks and poor sleep hygiene can lead to “eye fatigue, stress and anxiety, loss of cognitive functions, decreased reflexes, disconnection from reality, social isolation and poor performance in studies or at work.” But the fact is that, in addition, many of these gamers or aspiring professional players are associated with poor dietary habits and a sedentary lifestyle, which produces obesity and increased cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels; all this contributes to a greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases in the future.
take care of themselves. They are aware that good health has a positive impact on their results. And they do not like being singled out as an example of bad habits. It is likely that those who went through that phase in adolescence have improved these habits as adults. This is the case of Manute, a content creator and Vodafone brand ambassador: “When you’re a teen, you have your parents educating you; but, even so, you tend to play “just one more game” and then another one. Your daily routine falls apart. Over the years I’ve learned to stabilize all this and, with the exception of periods of stress, right now I have completely healthy routines for meals, sleep, exercise and posture correction.”
Even so, the gamer admits that he has some weak points, such as his diet: “I’d be misleading you if I didn’t mention the fact that, several times a week, I succumb to junk food. I must keep working on this. I just bought a food processor to see if it encourages me to cook more!” His sleep hygiene also needs working on. But he takes exercise and has a self-imposed work schedule with a limited number of hours in front of the screen. Even so, “stress plays tricks on me, affecting my mood. And, on the physical level, I believe my lower back is the region I most have to watch. I train and stretch every day.” Another gamer, David “Champi” Pérez, League of Legends narrator and streamer, claims that his profession is not the only one guilty of remaining seated for hours on end, scant physical activity and a poor diet. Although he is aware that his bad sitting posture is partly to blame for his backache: “I’ve always had back problems, as I’ve never had a correct seating position. In fact, I was the typical kid always falling off my chair in class for sitting badly. And I notice it in my daily life. My lower back really hurts.”
But the problem goes far beyond professional players who, like Luis Delgado, “are elite athletes with a strict training regime, overseen by physiotherapists, dietitians,psychologists and trainers who teach them healthy habits so as to be able to combine long hours of training and competition with an adequate personal and athletic development, without falling into behaviors that could prove harmful to their health.” They know that the better their health, the better the results. But the enthusiasts do not see things that clearly. They are not even aware of the possible health problems inherent in spending many hours in front of the screen.
Non-professional players take the video games for what they are, entertainment, but also a continuous challenge. For them, “every achievement, level completed or victory they accomplish is accompanied by a reward incentive at the emotional level. This pleasurable stimulus, produced by the release in the brain of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, is the basis of the addictive component of gaming. As the brain gets used to them, gamers play more frequently and for longer in order to maintain the level of those neurotransmitters. The gratifying sensation is associated with the desire to keep playing and this repeats itself over and over again, with the consequent loss of selfcontrol,” Delgado concludes. In other words,they do not worry about a good sleep hygiene or the need for stretching. Nor having the right tools for the job. That is to say, chairs with cervical, lumbar, shoulder and forearm support; a special screen for this activity (at least 32 inch) with high definition and a high refresh rate, etc.
However, especially in the case of teenagers, making them realize that they should follow health recommendations when they play is not an easy task. Perhaps because, as Manute says, “the person attempting to give advice on the world of gaming often has no idea what it is and thus finds it hard to empathize.” That’s why it’s so important that the gamers themselves tell them these things. And, in this regard, Manute has no doubts: “In stable periods, I’m a better player. I do my work faster. I communicate better. I do more in less time and, above all, I enjoy what I do much more.”
Feel good, play better, by Fundación MAPFRE
Aware of the degree to which video games are good, but also bad, Fundación MAPFRE launched the campaign Feel Good, Play Better, which aims to “foster healthy lifestyle habits among young people through the medium of the video game world. The idea is to combine the enjoyment of playing video games with self-care tips,” remarks Antonio Guzmán, manager of the Health & Accident Prevention Area at Fundación MAPFRE. The idea is to reach the enthusiasts, the ones who look after themselves the least, through the professional world – “the lever to reach young people, because the thousands and thousands of kids playing at home are those most in need of healthcare messages to learn how to look after themselves.”
We counted on the collaboration of the LVP (League of Video Game Professionals), “the best partner for developing this project, given their leading presence in the video game world,” declares Guzmán. And with influencers such as Manute, the kids can be reached much more directly.