Electronic Sports or e-Sports athletes spend most of their time practising and preparing for huge competitions and, like in any other sports, can cause various injuries and aches, particularly in the hands and wrists, due to frequent hand motions required for each game. Some gamers often deal with thumb pain after countless hours with the console, which can be very disabling and cause severe game discomfort. Continuous or too much use of the thumb with a console stick can result in thumb pain, known to the eSports world as the "Gamer's Thumb." But what exactly is a Gamer's Thumb, and how do eSports athletes deal with it?
Gamer's thumb in sports medicine is technically called De Quervain's Tenosynovitis. It is caused by inflammation of the tendons that move the thumb due to repetitive stress, resulting in pain along the outer side of the wrist. Gaming is a common cause, hence the name "Gamer's Thumb," but various terms are also tagged to it, such as Nintendo Thumb, Playstation Thumb, WASD Wrist, and Nintendonitis. Specifically, the tendons of the abductor pollicis longus (APL) and extensor pollicis brevis (EPB) are affected. Although frequently seen in the gaming world, De Quervain's Tenosynovitis can also develop in individuals who frequently use their thumbs and wrists, especially when it involves twisting motions, creating large amounts of strain that stress these tendons. The symptoms include:
De Quervain's Syndrome can be challenging to treat. A gamer must stop playing once severe pain is felt to prevent aggravation of the condition. Remember that this can be very uncomfortable and debilitating, and pushing yourself can take a toll on the thumb and prevent an athlete from moving forward into the sport.
At the early stage of the condition or on flare-ups, immediately apply the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, and elevation principle) to minimize inflammation. As an inflammatory condition, icing is critically important, especially if the thumb is swollen and tender to the touch. As the condition allows, gentle massage and stretching can commence. Exercise is the best treatment for tendon injuries like the Gamer's Thumb, while others only offer temporary relief.
The goal of treatment for Gamer's Thumb is to break the adhesions that developed within the tendon sheath through the cross-fibre technique. If the spot is still tender to the touch, icing can be done before soft tissue work to minimize discomfort and allow for deeper pressure and more effective mobilization.
Precaution: avoid applying too much pressure at a spot just above the wrist on the outer side to avoid compressing the sensitive structures that pass through the "anatomical snuffbox," such as the radial nerve, radial artery, and cephalic vein.