Expert take: Sports Performance and the Esports Athlete

October 17, 2017 / by Ralph Reiff

iStock-538599388-2.jpgCompetitive computer gaming, or esports, is a phenomenon that has become a fundamental element in today’s digital culture. The gaming sport growth on the horizon will converge with legacy operations and processes within the traditional sport culture. Elements fundamental to human performance in traditional sport will also become essential to the lifestyle of the esport athlete. 

My hypothesis is that the esports athlete will seek the appropriate resources to develop and enhance esports performance metrics. Furthermore, I contend that esports owners, sponsors and investors will look to develop an appropriate support system and competitive advantage for the esports team and the players.

Sport science professionals have been investigating the gaming participant for several years.  Competitive computer gamers train and compare competencies in networked and multimodal communication strategies or, more generally, competencies in the use of information and communication technology, something one might refer to as “cyberfitness”. Hence a definition offered by M.G. Wagner:

“’esports’ is an area of sport activities in which people develop and train mental or physical abilities in the use of information and communication technologies”. Wagner, M.G., On the Scientific Relevance of esports, Danube University, Krems, Austria

Science meets esports

Ingo Froböse began studying esports athletes five years ago at the German Sports University (Cologne). Frobose conducted tests aimed at determining the demands placed on the athletes' minds: 

"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 (gaming) 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," states Frobose. Furthermore, “The amount of cortisol produced is about the same level as that of a race-car driver," Froböse said. "This is combined with a high pulse, sometimes as high as 160 to 180 beats per minute, which is equivalent to what happened during a very fast run.”

Physical activity and moderate levels of fitness have long been shown to have an advantageous effect upon physical and mental performance. However, the evidence from the German Sports University study substantiated that the participants studied were “simply not in very good physical condition”.

Early adoption of athlete performance solutions will occur by forward thinking owners as it has in other sports such as motorsports, track & field and basketball. The early challenge will be the determination of what physical and mental elements will have the most impact upon performance. Experiential wisdom will focus upon general areas such as nutrition and ergonomics; however, evidence brought forward by metrics will lead the development of best practices.

I have developed the following profile to guide our service platform for this sport. The following are areas the performance community should consider for the esport athlete:

Profile I            Comprehensive intake portfolio

Assessment of the systems most impactful upon esports athlete performance: Physiology, Musculoskeletal, Neuromuscular, Cognitive 

Profile II           Interventions

Transition the portfolio data into individualized corrections for the esports athlete. 

Profile III          Interactive Oversight

Expert providers intervene with the athlete and their organization to manage daily operations, interventions, illness, and injury.

Profile IV          Metrics and Sustainability

Continuous monitoring of the individual athlete’s biometrics, gaming performance metrics, and schedule

Nutrition | Hydration

Performance Psychology | Mental Health

Athlete Index

Hand Eye Interaction
Reaction Timing
Hand size
Finger size
Grip strength
Functional Movement Screen (FMS)

Medical Fitness

Blood test | Panels
DNA | Gene influence

Activity Readiness

Seat | Chair | Pedestal ergo metric
Neuromuscular Activation




Eye motion
Exposure Sensitivity
Ocular fatigue

This was a guest post by Ralph Reiff M. Ed, LAT, ATC, Executive Director of St. Vincent Sports Performance. Ralph is a licensed athletic trainer and has been athlete focused in the delivery of sports medicine and sports performance development since 1981. Thank you to Ralph for sharing his thoughts with us!

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