Injury liability? Sounds boring. Honestly, it’s something most gamers don’t really think about. However, with the rise of collegiate esports, educational institutions are starting to have to think about it. In fact, given the ways injuries can affect aspiring professional pro gamers, or at least students looking to earn some scholarships with their gaming prowess, it’s anything but boring. By looking at the ways that colleges and universities are making sure they’re not responsible for any esports related injuries, there’s a lot to learn about how to avoid such injuries in the first place.
Often, gaming is an individual endeavor that leaves the gamers taking into their own hands the impact that gaming can have on one’s health. However, when it comes to league competitions and collegiate gaming, there’s a level of culpability that has colleges looking for ways to ensure they are minimizing both the risks of injury for their players and also any potential legal ramifications they might face. A recent article from University Business.com actually went so far as to break down four measures that colleges are using to avoid such ramifications, offering some insight into how players themselves can also avoid putting themselves at risk.
Among some of the statistics that the article cites is a 2018 study from the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. The study reports that “among collegiate esports players, 56% report eye fatigue, 42% report neck and back pain, 36% and 32% report wrist and hand pain respectively. Despite these high numbers, the journal reports that only 2% of players sought medical attention.” One of the four ways colleges are looking to address such issues is by officially treating esports the way they do traditional sports. In this case, ‘officially’ requires the same sort of rules and regulations the school applies to traditional sports as also being in effect for collegiate esports. Since part of the issue is that “only 2% of players sought medical attention,” traditional sporting regulations that require “mandated physicals, appropriate safety gear, reporting and treating injuries, and limits on practice time” would carry over to esports as well, helping to mitigate the problem.
The lesson to be learned here for gamers outside of collegiate esports is to seek medical attention from issues that may arise from gaming. Paying attention to how one’s body is being affected is important and if there’s no university department forcing a gamer to see a doctor if something hurts, the responsibility falls on the individual in question.
Other steps colleges are taking in order to avoid liability include ensuring “Access [to] Resources for Health and Preventive Care” as well as making sure to “Adopt a Code of Healthy Game Play” that is actually enforced. These steps mean that schools will make sure that athletes are educated about and have access to resources such as information from The National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECAD) and other such organizations that educate gamers about “ exercises, diet, rest and the harms of excessive game play.” For gamers outside of collegiate esports, the advice is to do some research and self educate. Take advantage of the information that is available. By taking on codes of conduct that they enforce, colleges are setting “limits to game play and sets an expectation that athletes report any symptoms to coaches and directors.” Without the structure and authority of “coaches and directors” it might be hard to set and follow self-imposed rules about limiting how many hours are spent gaming, but any practice at self discipline won’t only make for a healthier gamer, but a healthier person overall.
The last thing the University Business piece discusses regarding collegiate liability measures is their initiatives to “Implement Technology to Track Healthy Game Play.” One example of this is that colleges are starting to use programs like Healthy Player One to monitor not only how much time their gamers spend playing, but also track instances of in-game bullying and potential injuries. On a personal level, taking advantage of phone usage apps or even parental controls are a way to help yourself pay more attention to gaming habits that might otherwise be hard to keep track of.
All of these measures are being enacted by schools so that their bases are thoroughly covered. These institutions are intent on not being held legally responsible for any injuries gamers might experience playing on their behalf. They need to be able to say that they did everything they could within reason to prevent such injuries. For them, there’s a lot of money on the line in terms of potential litigation. While not all gamers will end up going pro or even playing on their school’s esports team, taking a hint from the ways colleges are looking out for themselves in terms of injury liability prevention will only help you look out for yourself too.