Esports athletes 'face similar pressures to pro sports stars'

Leading esports athletes are exposed to psychological pressures similar to those experienced by professional stars in traditional sports, a university study has said.

A report from the University of Chichester examined the psychological challenges encountered by elite esports professionals when competing in major contests, in what is the first investigation of its kind.

The investigation, published in the International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, interviewed high-ranking CS:GO players.

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Researchers found that esports players faced 51 different stress factors – including communication problems and concerns with competing in front of live audiences – mirroring the mental conditions experienced by pro athletes including footballers and rugby stars in high-profile tournaments.

Picture: Copyright ESL / Carlton Beener

Study co-author Dr Phil Birch, a senior lecturer in sport and exercise psychology at the University of Chichester, said: “Esports has become a multi-million-pound business attracting audiences worldwide, but there is little research into the psychological factors that influence players.

“We have discovered that gamers are exposed to significant stress when competing in top-flight contests. By isolating these stressors, we can help esports players develop effective coping strategies to deal with such stressors and optimise performance while playing at the highest level.”

Bad comms, angry gamers

Poor communication between teammates was identified as a key stressor among players when exposed to pressured environments. To manage the situation the research team said players either became overly aggressive to each other or attempted to avoid communication altogether, which negatively impacted their performance.

Picture: Copyright ESL / Carlton Beener

The study follows the publication of an article from the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, which made specific treatment recommendations for esports athletes.

University of Chichester researchers also recommended that top esports players are given psychological training to learn practical coping techniques to help them more effectively prepare for the pressures of competing at elite levels.

Rob Black, the Chief Operating Officer at ESL, which organises some of the world's biggest esports events said: "As an industry we've known for a long time that stressors on top level players can negatively affect their performance.

“This study proves this and reinforces what we have been saying for years. Further developments are needed in this area, and that will be key in ensuring the number of professional players continues to grow worldwide.”