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Doctors raise the alarm about esports injuries

Esports players struggle with injuries

A growing number of colleges and universities are offering competitive esports teams. Now some doctors are calling for gamers to be treated like other college athletes — because just like with other sports, they also suffer injuries.

Ryan Harran and Daniel Singh play varsity esports for the Cy-Bears at the New York Institute of Technology.

"Some days I don't play at all because of school and work, but when I do play, it could be anywhere from three hours to six hours," Harran told CBS News.

These players say the intensity of practice takes a toll.

"It is pretty mentally draining. There's definitely eye strain from just looking so hard," Singh said.

New research in the British Journal of Medicine looked at 65 college esport players and found they averaged about five to 10 hours of gaming training daily, with many reporting overuse injuries including hand and wrist pain and neck and back pain.

"Poor posture can produce exponential forces on your neck, back, shoulder," said study author Dr. Hallie Zwibel, of the NYIT Center for Sports Medicine. "Eye fatigue is the most commonly reported complaint from these pixelated images that you see when you are playing on a computer. They're making 500 action moves per minute. So there's a lot of high-speed thinking, and I think that fatigues the eyes even further."

Zwibel says players also report insomnia because the blue light from the screens can suppress the sleep hormone melatonin.

In fact, esports can be so strenuous that players often retire by the time they're in their mid-20s. CBSN Originals explored the toll that top-level gaming can take in the recent documentary, "Esports: The Price of the Grind."

Esports: The price of the grind

So far, 80 colleges and universities in the U.S. have varsity esport teams. Researchers say schools need to provide prevention and treatment plans for esports injuries just as they do with traditional athletes.

"Nutrition, exercise regimens, stretches, especially stretches of the eyes to avoid eye fatigue during game play," Zwibel said.

And it's not just varsity esports athletes who should be careful. Even if you don't play at that level, Zwibel said you can still suffer esports injuries like overuse injuries, eye strain, and eye fatigue from video games. 

Singh says he keeps all that in mind to be his best on game day.

"You try to be more aware of your posture, and roll your shoulders back, keep a straight back," he said.

He also tries to get in some exercise when he's offline.

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