Online gaming isn’t just a popular hobby – professional gamers can make up to $10 million at each tournament. With millions of spectators watching the tournaments online, in-person at mega venues like Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center, and on major TV stations such as ESPN3 or the Big Ten Network, there’s a lot of time and money put into this newer sport. Esports might even be added as a medal event at the 2024 Olympic games1.
If other serious athletes spend their lives practicing and preparing for huge events like these, then it makes sense that gamers do too. Many top gamers practice 12 to 15 hours a day. Like other sports, esports can cause a variety of injuries and aches. Most are hand and wrist injuries from the quick, repetitive motions needed for each game. Some are caused by poor posture while sitting for long periods of time.
The most common problem gamers struggle with include:
Gamer’s thumb is technically called De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, but it has many nicknames including Nintendo Thumb, Playstation Thumb, WASD Wrist, and Nintendonitis. This injury occurs from repetitive stress that causes inflammation and irritation of the tendons and the sheath around them.
- Pain and/or swelling at the base of the thumb
- Difficulty grasping or pinching
- Pain when turning or flexing the wrist
- Pain when making a fist
Exercise is the best treatment for tendon injuries like Gamer’s thumb, everything else only offers temporary pain relief. Try the exercises below to make sure the tendon doesn’t weaken and continue to create a cycle of pain.
Exercising and stretching the wrist and thumb can help improve your symptoms. These four exercises, which only require a Neoprene Dumbbell and TheraBand Resistance Tubing, are an easy way to help any gamer get back to doing what they love.
1. Eccentric Wrist Flexion with Finger Curl
This exercise is ideal for stretching and strengthening the wrist
- Use a moderately heavy weight so it’s possible to do multiple repetitions to build endurance
- Start by holding the weight with your palm up
- Curl your wrist toward the ceiling
- Slowly uncurl the wrist, bringing it down toward the ground
- Uncurl your fingers at the end of the exercise to target deep forearm muscles
- Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions each
2. Eccentric Wrist Extension
- Begin by holding the weight with your palm facing down
- Curl your wrist up toward the ceiling
- Uncurl the wrist toward the floor
- Unlike the last exercise, do not uncurl your fingers
- Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions each
3. Radial Deviation Strengthening
This is another stretching exercise that will come in handy during long tournaments.
- Start by extending your arm in front of your body
- Hold the weight with your palm facing inward
- If extra support is needed, balance your forearm on a table with the wrist hanging over the edge
- Keep your forearm steady while focusing on just moving the wrist
- Bend wrist up toward the ceiling and feel the stretch at the base of the thumb
- Lower wrist back to the starting position
- Repeat for two sets of ten repetitions each
4. Resisted Ulnar Deviation
The goal of this exercise is to improve gamer’s thumb using Resistance Tubing.
- Sit on a chair with feet hip distance apart
- Hold one end of the TheraBand Professional Resistance Tubing in right hand
- While keeping your palm facing the floor, lean forward so your right elbow rests on your right thigh and your forearm drops between your knees
- Step on the other end of Tubing with your left foot
- Using your right hand, slowly bend your wrist up and away from your left knee
- Feel the stretch at the back and inside of your hand
- Repeat ten times
- Switch to your left hand and repeat the exercise
Splints & Braces
Although braces and splints are helpful for short term pain relief, exercise should be considered the primary intervention to keep your hands healthy. Learn about current guidelines on rest from Matt Hwu and Caitlin McGee, physical therapists at 1-HP and avid gamers, who address this topic in an article on rest and recovery.
Brace During Rest
Ease the pain of Gamer’s Thumb by avoiding further tendon aggravation. The Rolyan Universal Thumb Splint Spica can be worn when not playing to completely immobilize the thumb.
Fast Pain Relief
Decrease swelling and inflammation by icing your thumb and hand. These Instant Hot/Cold Packs go above and beyond because they activate with one squeeze and don’t need to be frozen first. Take one to tournaments for convenient use during breaks between games.
Or just carry around a 3 ounce tube of Biofreeze for instant cooling relief. Patients preferred Biofreeze over ice ten to one in clinical studies, and the cooling sensation can last through the longest of gaming sessions.
Even the best athletes have to sit out of the sports they love when they are injured. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat the symptoms of gamer’s thumb to avoid injury and reduce the time spent away from playing!
Other esports injuries preventing you from gaming? Get relief now!
Graham, B. A. (2017, August 09). ESports could be medal event at 2024 Olympics, Paris bid team says. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3pyvbCA
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