As an orthopedic surgeon, who specializes in hand, wrist and upper extremity issues, I come across many individuals who suffer from repetitive stress injuries. The causation for such conditions can certainly vary, however, a substantial portion of these injuries arise from copious computer usage. Some of these individuals work at a desk for countless hours on end, while at the same time many of these individuals partake in competitive gaming. Professional gaming, though a recently new phenomenon, has reached new heights in regards to its popularity, hence the e-sport itself also demands more strenuous practice regiments from its competitors.
After being shown the League of Legends 2013 World Championships that took place here in Los Angeles, I was amazed at the capacity of these athletes in regards to their reaction times and motor skills. At the same time, I also heard reports that many of these e-sport athletes, experienced premature ends to their careers due to carpal tunnel, wrist tendonitis and other hand and wrist conditions, an area in which I specialize. Below I will list a multitude of exercises, stretches and lifestyle applications that professional e-sport athletes can use to dramatically lengthen their professional careers, increase their APM or actions per minute, and prevent potentially career ending injuries.
Firstly, when holding a gaming console, repetitively clicking your mouse or pushing buttons on a keyboard, it is important to understand that the fingers are mainly in a position of flexion, or perpetual stress. During a 4, 8 or 12 hour gaming session, which many professional e-sport athletes perform on a regular basis, the fingers and thumbs will flex thousands of times, and, unfortunately, this essential practice, can cause many issues in regards to repetitive stress injuries. However, the regular performance of proper stretching techniques, strengthening exercises, and maintenance can allow these athletes to perform at the top of their game for extended periods of time; after all, these are professional athletes.
Here are my top 7 rules to help gamers improve and maintain their hand, wrist and elbow health. (These exercises can also be found on my YouTube channel)
Video Demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiRC80FJbHU
1. Firstly, take a 1 minute break every 60 minutes to simply flex and extend all your fingers. You can do this by making a full fist and then open all your fingers widely for several repetitions. I would suggest 20 repetitions every 60 minutes. Perhaps run a timer on your phone, or an application on your computer to remind you to do this.
2. Do gliding exercises for the wrist during some of the 60 second breaks. Please see the demonstrative graphic below. These exercises are designed to help stave off carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms which include hand numbness, tingling, pain, or decreased grip strength.
Gliding Exercise Demonstration by Dr. Levi Harrison : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvzUMBYz7EM
3. Do Nirschl exercise to help stretch out the extensor muscles of the elbow and wrist.
Nirschl Exercise Demonstration by Dr. Levi Harrison: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=EiRC80FJbHU#t=193
4. Before competition immerse your hand and wrist in warm water for 3-5 minutes. The heat will be soothing to the joints. Also heat reduces viscosity of the joint fluid, which may increase the flexibility of the wrist and agility of the fingers, hence your actions per minute.
5. Do blocking exercises when taking a break. These exercises greatly assist in the movement of the joints in your fingers and thumbs.
Blocking Exercise Demonstration by Dr. Levi Harrison: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=EiRC80FJbHU#t=137
6. Massage your fingers, wrist and elbows regularly during the day, even when you are not gaming.
7. Shake out your hands, wrist and elbows during your break and throughout the day.
All of these exercises can be done when you are not gaming. Strategically rotate all the exercises that are discussed during your gaming breaks. Remember, the breaks are a critical part of this strategic system designed specifically for gamers.Ultimately, the gamers I have worked with have had great benefits with this plan in regards to improving functional upper extremity health while gaming. It has become clear that this program will maximally benefit gamers. Lastly, remember that we all need our wrists and elbows for normal activities of daily living, and I will do all that as a medical professional to support the health of the community, and its talented constituents.
This program is designed to minimize your risks of developing tendonitis in your thumbs, fingers, wrists and elbows. These exercises are also focused to help minimize your risks of developing carpal tunnel symptoms also.
Continue to enjoy the fun, thrill and competition of gaming!
D. Levi Harrison, MD