A German scientific study shows eSports professionals are athletes

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Perhaps one of the biggest debates I’ve seen in the more recent past is that of whether eSports professional can be considered athletes. This is a much deeper argument as it allows them to be taken more seriously when considering the amount of hours they spend behind the PC. Their practice and dedication is easily compared to that of conventional athletes, but according to a new scientific study, they are in fact athletes.

People often don’t consider the amount of strain placed on eSports professionals who devote some 18 hours a day to perfecting their game. Recently there has been a push for a healthier lifestyle of eSport athletes, but when German Professor Igor Froböse began his scientific study five years ago, it was merely a part of the industry. Froböse was one of the first to look into the strain and physical influence on eSports at the German Sports University in Cologne. His study, one of the first of its kind, looked into the important aspects of a professional gamer. According to the report, he “looked into the demands placed on an eSports professional, the kind of training he needs to go through to compete, or what kind of strains he is exposed to during a tournament.”

In an interview with DW,Froböse said the following:

We were particularly impressed by both the demands placed on the motor skills and their capabilities.

“The eSports athletes achieve up to 400 movements on the keyboard and the mouse per minute, four times as much as the average person. The whole thing is asymmetrical, because both hands are being moved at the same time and various parts of the brain are also being used at the same time.

More than the basics

You don’t often consider the amount of work going in to every single stroke of keyboard or movement of the mouse. To the general observer you’ll often see gamers clicking away and moving their hands “aimlessly.” This is not the case as every movement in the heat of battle needs precise movement and tactical understanding. These rapid movements in between plays ensure the gamer is ready for that next fast paced movement. Keeping up an APM of over 400 is normal for most professional gamers, and this kind of strain cannot be compared to any other conventional sport.

One of the more medical observations was that of the heart rate. During heated battle some players were observed to have heart rates of up 160-180 BPM, which is comparable to a sprint or marathon runner. I’m sure as an amateur enthusiast you’ve gone through those heated plays where you feel you’re about to have an heart attack? Apparently it’s normal, and your heart has just gone through a marathon.

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Just watch this video of Darbian setting a World speed record in Super Mario Bros. while wearing a heart rate monitor. His heart rate clocks in 170 BPM.

 

A healthier lifestyle

Now that we’re being considered athletes, it’s important to start behaving like one. This doesn’t mean buying fancy cars and surrounding ourselves with beautiful people. It unfortunately means eating healthier and getting exercise. eSports professionals are perhaps unaware of the strain they’re putting their bodies and minds under when playing at the highest levels. In some of the top teams these players have their own dietary experts who help make sure they consume the right nutrients to continue performing at that level. What about those who aren’t part of major organizations?

In terms of their fitness, many of our test subjects are simply average citizens, and average citizens worry me. They simply aren’t fit. For example, they fail to do exercises that would strengthen the whole support system in the shoulder and neck areas. Were they to do this, this would improve their fine-motor skills in the arm area, something that is extremely important in competition.

Nutritional needs are often overlooked when considering the amount of strain you’re putting on your body and mind. You’re undergoing the same amount of strain as normal athletes, yet your diet consists of Mountain Dew Code Red and Doritios?

One of the test subjects who took part in the scientific study was Rene Pinkera, the BlizzCon World of Warcraft champion who currently plays for SK Games. During the study Pinkera apparently realized his nutritional needs were not being met.

You always see opponents with energy drinks and other beverages that are loaded with sugar, people who don’t watch what they eat. We try to avoid sugar, we eat a banana beforehand, or maybe a muesli bar. And you can’t go wrong by drinking water.

Now that a scientific study has proven that eSports professionals undergo the same stress and strain as athletes we can begin to take it a bit more seriously. Luckily for most gamers there’s an apparent gym culture which has tied itself closely to gaming. Look after yourselves, please.

Last Updated: May 16, 2016

Kyle Wolmarans

Critical Hit's esports guy. I talk about esports and drink whiskey. I also write and cast for elsewhere - but my work here is independent of that.

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