Electronic competitive video gaming may not have the physical toll on gamers that professional football or basketball players receive on the field or court, but the medical industry is taking a keen interest in keeping collegiate esports gamers physically and mentally healthy.
Cleveland Clinic Sports Health has teamed up with The University of Akron to become the exclusive medical provider of Akron Esports, giving varsity student-players expedited health care. The student-players will also be part of a collaborative research effort between UA and Cleveland Clinic Sports Health to outline the effective and comprehensive care of esports athletes. The agreement also ensures that Akron Esports varsity athletes get access to personalized nutrition consultations through Cleveland Clinic’s Express Care Virtual Visit platform.
Michael Fay Jr.
The partnership will also provide for the creation of academic components. UA’s School of Sport Science and Wellness Education is in the process of developing an introductory course in esports for this new discipline, which could lead to additional academic opportunities. The course, which is anticipated to be offered Spring Semester 2020, is a global overview of the esports industry and available job opportunities, from health care to coaching, and promotions to administration. Much of the exercise science aspect will focus on how to keep athletes’ minds and bodies healthy to prevent such things as neck and shoulder injuries and increase brain and neuro-muscular reaction time as well as counteract the physiological stress of engaging in the sport.
“By teaming up with Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, UA’s esports program has taken one of the most significant steps in the collegiate esports space toward keeping our players healthy, safe, and positioned to stay on the forefront of research and instructional opportunities in this emerging field,” said Michael Fay Jr., head coach and director of esports programs at UA. “It’s crucially important that we are not only able to gain cutting edge insights about what mechanical and neurological factors contribute to our player’s success, but also that we fulfill our obligation as educators to proactively maximize the welfare of our student-players.”
Dr. Mark Schickendantz
“This is unique because it brings together experts in sports performance, rehabilitation and injury prevention,” said Dr. Mark Schickendantz, director of Cleveland Clinic Sports Health. “It provides a great opportunity to collaborate, innovate and demonstrate the positive impact we can have on the health, wellness and wellbeing of esports athletes.”
Dr. Dominic King, a sports medicine physician and director of the Esports Medicine Program at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, will serve as the medical consultant for Akron Esports. King and his team will work with the varsity program to administer baseline neurocognitive evaluations and baseline gaming ergonomic evaluations, and have didactic discussions related to esports nutrition, fitness, training and psychology. Results from the evaluations will serve as the benchmark for researching the effective and comprehensive care of esports athletes.
Dr. Dominic King
According to a 2019 study by osteopathic sports medicine physicians at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, the most common reported complaints among collegiate varsity esports gamers regarding physical health were eye fatigue, neck and back pain, wrist pain and hand pain. Survey data determined the causes of injuries were the gamers focusing on LED computer monitors for long periods of time, being seated for hours and the high number of hours dedicated to practice. Akron Esports varsity student-players already participate in regular workouts. Each week, the students do two one-hour sessions of high-intensity interval training and one hour of yoga. The purpose of these sessions is to help with stress relief, keep reflexes and mental alertness sharp, and facilitate team bonding. The yoga helps with posture strengthening and emotion regulation. Team members also participate in a nutrition course to help them maintain a healthy diet.
UA is the first public university in northern Ohio and one of the first Division I universities in the country to create a varsity esports program, which launched in December 2017. Recently, the Akron Rocket League team captured the Collegiate Rocket League Spring 2019 National Championship after becoming the first team in the history of Collegiate Rocket League to qualify for the national finals twice consecutively.
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