The popularity of esports is on the rise, with professional gamers sometimes practicing for 12 hours per day or more and at high levels of intensity.
While this drastically increases their susceptibility to musculoskeletal injuries and discomfort, there are currently no guidelines for gaming ergonomics, prompting the team at Brock University’s Neuromechanics and Ergonomics Lab to launch an online survey in the hopes of developing some.
“There are no statistics on the injuries of professional gamers,” says PhD student Garrick Forman (MSc ’19), who self-identifies as a big gamer. “Watching online tournaments, I started to see a lot of the players wearing kinesiology tape or braces due to wrist and forearm injuries. This got me thinking about the research potential and its implications for gamers.”
Forman, whose doctoral research is Investigating the neuromuscular effects and mechanisms of forearm muscle fatigue on ipsilateral and contralateral fine motor function, hopes to survey as many gamers as possible to get a better sense of their gaming characteristics and habits such as console used, duration of play, frequency of breaks, type of seat, and areas of pain and discomfort.
“I am trying to find out when gaming injuries are starting and whether people are playing through the pain,” he says. “Not surprisingly, there have been documented injuries to professional gamers at a very young age and even recreational gamers report playing-related pain and discomfort.”
According to a December 2019 Business Insider report, the global games market is estimated to generate revenues of more than $1 billion in 2020, and is expected to surpass $1.5 billion by 2023.
“There is a lot of cross-over in gaming to biomechanics,” Forman says. “There are immense long-term possibilities for this research and as the esports industry grows, we need to grow with it.”
As online gaming and professional leagues have developed, some people now game for a living, making base salaries plus additional prize money. Audiences fill stadiums to watch tournaments and some of these multi-million-dollar organizations have even invested in fully staffed and equipped physiotherapy rooms on-site.
“One gaming tournament last year had a $35 million prize pool,” Forman says. “This translates into a potentially huge biomechanics industry, especially because we are moving into spending longer durations in the digital world. Due to COVID-19, we are home more and likely gaming more; however, this has long-term implications because of the direction gaming is moving.”
International in scope, the online survey has already generated responses from participants in more than 25 countries, which will allow the research team to compare data across various nations and continents.
In anticipation of the survey results, Forman is thinking about the broader impacts and how it might benefit other researchers.
“I’m excited to possibly help prevent injuries to the forearm, but maybe someone wants to do neck research on gamers,” Forman says. “Our findings may be able to support that.”
Following analysis of the survey results, Forman, whose supervisor is Kinesiology Associate Professor Michael Holmes, the Canada Research Chair in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics, plans to do a number of laboratory studies on hand and forearm muscle fatigue and performance that will relate to gaming ergonomics.
“For a number of years, our lab has focused on identifying mechanisms of work-related injuries to the hand and wrist,” Holmes says. “Garrick’s thesis will contribute to the development of standards of practice for gaming and could lead to improved hardware design of gaming peripherals.”
Individuals worldwide who are 18 years of age or older and who play video games at any skill level on a regular basis (both on and off throughout the month, as well as weekly or) are invited to take the online survey, which takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.
Questions about the study can be directed to Garrick Forman at firstname.lastname@example.org