Pro Gamers Improve Play With New Health Habits

MedStar Health – It’s How We Treat People.

Across the street from the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., a new kind of athlete is grabbing attention. Although the competition takes place on the hardwood, it’s not what you’d normally think of. And certainly not the kind of athlete you’d consider needing a deep bench of medical professionals to stay healthy.

For the athletes at the MedStar Wizards District Gaming Studio, the court is virtual, but don’t let that fool you — financial stakes are high and play is hyper-competitive.

The eSports athletes receive regular doctor visits at the MedStar Wizards District Gaming Studio, but also travel to the Sports Performance Center at MedStar Health Lafayette Centre to work with their personal performance coach, Dan Black, CSCS. Although Dan's usual patients include elite athletes and Olympic hopefuls, his goals with the gamers are the same.

“I work with the eSports athletes on cardio and strengthening,” says Dan. “Staying healthy and in top physical shape means they’re that much more alert when they’re under the stress of practicing and competing in these highly stressful games.”

Maurice Delaney, a 21-year-old Wizards District Gaming recruit from Chicago, says a workout with Dan helps him relax.

“The workout with Dan, and getting in a good sweat... takes the pressure off. It helps our body and mind stay in shape.”

A Team Approach to Care

Wizards District Gaming is part of the NBA 2K league, the eSports incarnation of the Washington Wizards. Just like the NBA, there’s a yearly draft. During the draft, each of the 21 2K teams selects six professional eSports athletes, usually between ages 18 to 24.

Although the players aren’t lacing up, the long hours they spend sitting at their workstations compounded with a high stress environment presents unique medical needs. Melita Moore, MD, MedStar Health team physician for Wizards District Gaming, is working to address those concerns.

"Despite these players being young and healthy, they're at risk for injuries people usually associate with long hours spent in front of a computer, not the movements and injuries they'd suffer on an actual basketball court. MedStar Health has compiled a robust medical team to take care of their unique needs regarding mental health, brain, vision, neck, and hand issues."

That team includes a hand surgeon, sports psychologist, optometrist, hand therapist, vision therapist, sports performance coach, athletic trainer, and a dedicated orthopedic and sports research team.

Michael Albiter, a 27-year-old player drafted from Dallas, enjoys working closely with the MedStar Health team.

“The doctors are very helpful. They teach us breathing techniques and other things we need to do our job at a very high level,” he shares.

Dr. Moore and her team have even helped players improve their posture to alleviate the strain from gameplay.

“A lot of gamers [don’t know] how their back is postured, and I’ve learned that you want to sit straight up and look directly forward. Getting away from your chair a little and stretching for as little as two or three minutes can make a big difference,” says Albiter.

After suffering frequent headaches from extended gameplay, Delaney also sought the help of MedStar Health physicians.

“Having better posture has helped,” he says. “They’ve also given me advice and exercises to do when my head starts hurting... Otherwise a headache makes it hard for me to focus and play my best.”

A Game Plan for Long-Term Health

Outside of the immediate and symptomatic health concerns, Dr. Moore is dedicated to enhancing the long-term wellness of her players.

“The way we’re trying to enhance the performance of our eSports athletes is to improve their nutrition habits, encourage good sleep and vision hygiene, exercise, and to make sure that overall they’re healthy in every way. I believe that also improving and increasing physical fitness and activity helps to enhance performance,” says Dr. Moore.

“Thanks to this program with MedStar Health, I know what red flags to look out for,” Albiter adds. “[They’re] all things you wouldn’t think of, but they’re important for an eSports athlete.”

MedStar Health is committed to promoting wellness and providing access to care in ways that weren’t possible before, not just to athletes, but to all members of our community.

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