There are a few things that separate professional athletes from amateurs. Natural gifts like talent, of course, and mental toughness. But these are also balanced by discipline and commitment, particularly to an intense training regime. And sometimes the intensity of training invites an increased risk of injury. Just ask Tommy Papparatto.
Tommy Papparatto is a young athlete, early in his career, who until January of 2021 dominated his sport. At just 25 years old, he had already won 6 major championships and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. But he was struggling with a nagging hand injury that impeded his ability to compete effectively, resulting in his early retirement to the shock of his sport and fan base. And what was that sport? Esports.
Esports is competitive, organized gaming at the professional level. And as you can now see, it is an industry, just like any other, where individuals like Tommy Papparatto, better known as Zoomaa, are at risk of major, potentially career-ending, injury. Once a star athlete, Zoomaa was forced to retire in January of 2021 from an injury that may have been prevented or managed had the risk been identified and controlled before it was too late.
Risks in the industry are not only seen with individual gamers, but also event/tournament organizers, and Esports teams as well. Due to the relatively recent popularity of esports, new risks are constantly emerging and we must find a way to manage them, and protect against unforeseen risks as well. Certainly, some of the risks in esports can be seen across many industries, but there are others related to personal injury and technology that take on an expanded level of risk in the context of esports.
With the talent and skill esport athletes possess, it is important to do your best to prevent injury. Just as in traditional sports, there is an unpredictable risk of injury, which must be managed as this is how esport athletes make a living.
There may not be a single event that causes an injury, but rather it can occur over time, often from overuse or repetitive strain. Esport athletes practice an average of 50 hours a week, which is why so many run into injuries. A common example is carpal tunnel syndrome which is caused by increased pressure on the median nerve in the wrist, resulting in pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Neck, back, hand and eye pain are also very common injuries seen in esports. Providing the appropriate rest time and care for team members and individuals will help to reduce the risk of a game changing injury.
One of the great things about esports, and esports events in particular, is accessibility. With the flexibility to attend either a livestream, or a live event (with the proper health and safety precautions in place, of course), esports offers an unmatched level of participation for fans around the world.
And as this burgeoning sector increases its reach to players, companies and fans, it also increases its level of risk. When planning an event, organizers assess all incidents that may occur, especially those related to technology. Because without technology, there are no esports. Securing protection against cyber-attacks, network failures and other technical glitches are key to ensuring the show will go on. In addition, there are many other risks to consider when planning protection for esports events, like active assailants, cancellation, and what to do when participants do not fulfill contractual obligations.
Esports has exploded in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. Since 2019, the esports industry has seen a 126.6 million dollar increase in revenue and is expected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2024. As stakes continue to rise, injuries will persist, events will return bigger than ever, and the industry itself will experience shifts that frankly we can’t even predict! So, while the fast pace of esports is exciting, we all know that risk accompanies growth. It is important for individuals and organizations alike to educate themselves on the potential risks, so that if and when a serious issue arises, they are prepared and protected.