With the rise of professional and aspiring gamers and esport athletes, the work required looks similar to that of an office worker. Many hours sitting in a chair with incorrect posture may lead to long-term issues.
Correct gaming posture follows suit from corporate ergonomics. Your chair should allow for a 90° knee bend with your feet flat on the ground, armrests for your elbows to sit at 90°, and support for your lumbar spine. Peripherals need to be set up to keep this posture.
The gaming chair is just one part of the gaming posture. Peripherals are what will dictate how well you keep a good gaming posture. Before diving in, it’s important to understand why good gaming posture is so important and what the potential ramifications may be if ignored.
Table of Contents
Why Gaming Posture Is Important
Gaming musculoskeletal disorders are primarily linked to the arms, shoulders, head, neck, and back . In fact, 34% and 41% of collegiate esports players suffered from back and neck pain . The most frequently reported complaint was eye fatigue (45% and 52%).
This is not surprising considering these esport athletes were logging between 3-10 hours of practice a day. Professional Korean esports athletes will play 13.5 hours a day on average so you can see why proper gaming posture is important for reducing the risk of pain and injury .
The injuries seen in esports athletes are similar to those seen in sedentary office workers so applying some of the methods from the corporate world can be beneficial for the athlete in the esports world .
Correcting posture while gaming through ergonomics is one effective strategy to reduce muscle and joint load through the body.
Ergonomics is defined as the understanding of human behavior and performance while interacting with their work environment . Or how technical performance (i.e. gaming and esports) and the quality of life while gaming interact.
When training or gaming, it takes just 30 minutes to see a decline in a seated posture and a drift in forward head posture .
Considering that competitive gaming and esports can last for 3-6 hours, this can potentially exacerbate symptoms of pain and discomfort.
So, what is the correct gaming posture and how can you maintain it for the long haul?
How Can I Fix My Posture While Gaming?
The Rapid Office Strain Assessment (ROSA) was been developed from office ergonomic guidelines which you can use to assess and correct your own gaming setup and posture .
The idea is to achieve a fit between gaming equipment and the gaming or esports athlete that optimizes the design of the gaming or workstation.
The ROSA is split into risk factors and scored from values 1 to 3. The lower the score the better. These risk factors are split into these categories: chair, monitor, telephone, keyboard, and mouse.
We will be ignoring the telephone as this is for gamers, not office workers. These are further split into sub-sections where chair scores are compared to peripheral scores to create the final ROSA score.
Chair posture is split into 4 different sub-sections. These are the height of the seat, the length of the seat pan, the armrests, and back support.
Your chair should allow your knees to bend at 90° with your feet flat on the floor. A chair being too high increases the risk of impinging blood vessels in the thigh so you end up sitting on the edge of the chair increasing lower back strain.
A gaming chair too low may put extra pressure on the glutes and puts the lumbar spine into constant flexion creating unnecessary spinal lean and pelvic tilt that compromises the lumbar spine curve.
There should be 5-7 cm of space from the back of the knee to the edge of the chair. If the seat pan is too long, the backrest won’t support the lower back as only the upper back will be against it. This results in unnecessary curvature of the spine that may lead to pain and discomfort.
If the seat pan is too short, the pressure will be placed on the back of the thigh compressing blood vessels and nerves. This could potentially increase your chances of developing deep vein thrombosis which can be potentially fatal.
A professional esports player had this condition in 2012 but treatment was delayed as he didn’t realize his leg pain was a life-threatening condition .
The armrests should allow the elbow to rest in a 90° position with the shoulders relaxed. Having armrests reduces the load placed on the shoulders and arms when using a mouse. Damage to the forearm muscles can occur if the armrest has hard or sharp surfaces so it must be soft and comfortable.
Armrests that are too high cause the shoulders to be shrugged while armrests that are too low don’t allow the elbows to be supported.
Armrests shouldn’t be too wide either as the arms become splayed too far away from the body.
The back support should be able to maintain the natural, lordotic curve of the lumbar spine. Without this support, the lumbar spine loses this shape increasing tendon, ligament, and muscular strain in the back.
The back support should be reclined slightly at 95-110°.
Your monitor should be positioned between 40-75 cm away from your head. The easiest way to determine if you are the right distance away from your monitor is to position yourself an arm’s length away.
You should be able to view the screen while sitting back in your chair. The screen should be positioned at eye level height, or just below your seated eye height. The bottom of your screen should be no further than 30° below your eye level.
Monitors that are set up lower or higher than this increases the strain on the neck potentially causing discomfort and pain in the long term. It should be directly in front of you as offset monitors can increase the strain on the neck.
It is recommended to use a hands-free device such as a headset with a microphone to reduce the strain on the body having to lean into microphones or reach for other devices needed to listen or communicate.
Your mouse should be directly in line with your shoulder and should be at the same level as your keyboard to keep the shoulder relaxed. The further you have to reach for your mouse, the greater muscle activity of the shoulder and arm increasing the risk of injury.
Using a mouse with wrist extension or deviation of the wrist while moving the mouse are also risk factors for potential hand and wrist injuries.
The mouse should also be large enough for your hand and not force you to use certain grips. I understand that some grips are advantageous for esports performance even though they carry a higher risk of injury.
But that’s part of competitive sport. Competitive professional sport comes with performance tasks that are considered unhealthy over the long term but are necessary to play at the highest level.
That just makes getting other aspects of your posture nailed down even more important to potentially offset any other problems.
Keyboard placement should allow you to use it with your elbows at 90° and your shoulders relaxed with the wrists straight. Keyboards that are too high cause unnecessary strain on the upper back and shoulders which can lead to pain and discomfort.
The wrist tends to be the most vulnerable with keyboard use due to the wrist being in constant extension which can be mitigated with a keyboard that is at the right height. Further, there should be no hard surfaces as this can place undue pressure on the wrist leading to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Scoring Your Own Gaming Posture
I have put together a full resource for you based on the research paper presented above. It will run you through a checklist where you can score your own battle station.
This will allow you to pinpoint areas to improve your gaming posture to keep you healthier for longer. This means you can practice more often, for longer hours, and therefore, get better at your esport faster than your competition.
Console Gaming Posture
Console gaming posture is no different from the PC posture listed above minus the different peripherals. You should still be able to maintain a neutral posture in a gaming chair with back support and armrests.
However, instead of having your arms in front of you on a desk, you’ll have a controller in your hands on your lap. This creates an ideal posture with the shoulders and arms relaxed rather than being hunched over looking at your screen then wondering why you have back pain after an hour.
Gaming Posture Corrector
Posture correctors for gamers are becoming more popular with more companies deciding to jump into the market of professional gaming. However, many are your typical cheap fitness products made in China.
If you’re after a posture correcting accessory to give yourself tactile feedback to not slump your shoulders forward while gaming, or even when not gaming, then you should opt for equipment that has been built to last with great quality.
The Donnie Thompson Casual Bow Tie is just this. It is made by Spud Inc who are world leaders when it comes to straps material for strength sports.
I have my own Spud Inc equipment and the material is soft and doesn’t rub on your skin as other cheap material does.
The Casual Bow Tie can be worn for hours so is a better option than the Formal Bow Tie which is much tighter. The Formal version is only meant to be worn for short periods of time.
While a gaming posture corrector isn’t the answer to fixing your posture, it can be a great addition to your daily routine to remind yourself not to slump forward with a rounded shoulder posture when gaming.
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7. Zwibel, H., DiFrancisco-Donoghue, J., DeFeo, A., & Yao, S. (2019). An osteopathic physician’s approach to the esports athlete. J Am Osteopath Assoc, 119(11), 756-762.
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