Professional Videogamers Are Working Out

Hoping to avoid injuries, gamers get physical training; squat jumps, ginger smoothies and yoga. From a report: Esports, the world of professional videogaming, is looking more and more like other sports, with big sponsors, prize money, fan bases — and player injuries. In response, teams are educating players on ergonomics, hiring personal chefs and sending gamers to the gym [Editor’s note: the link may be paywalled]. Sweden’s Ninjas in Pyjamas, one of esports’ most accomplished teams, distributes an illustrated fitness guide to players with nearly two dozen recommended “core” exercises like burpees, Superman lifts and squat jumps. It has also instituted a “no pizza” rule before morning matches and mandated teams take pregame walks.

Before matches, hand-warming packets are doled out to its two dozen players. “If you have warm hands, you reduce the risk of injury versus cold hands,” says Hicham Chahine, Ninjas’ chief executive. The potential for injuries — most frequently in the wrists, hands and fingers — is rising due to the popularity of the $900 million esports universe. With new leagues and a proliferation of competitions, for some games, tournaments are popping up nearly every other week. “Everyone is susceptible to injuries in everything that is done to an extreme,” says Veli-Matti Karhulahti, of Finland’s University of Turku, who along with co-author Tuomas Kari, has published peer-reviewed research on physical activity in esports.

South Korean team KT Rolster hired a nutritionist two years ago who dictates breakfast, lunch and dinner. Brown rice was substituted for white rice. Players craving fast food or instant ramen must now make a special request to do so, says Jeong Je-seung, KT Rolster’s coach and a former professional gamer. In his playing days, Mr. Jeong says low salaries meant “if you could eat three times a day as an esports player back then it was enough.” Top players can now earn millions of dollars annually in prize money and sponsorships. The 2018 world championship for “Dota 2,” a game where teams raid opponentsâ(TM) bases, carried a purse of nearly $25 million.