Wellness program trains elite egamers like elite athletes

Planking in the Georgia sun, at the crack of 10 a.m. This is probably not how most gamers start their day.

But, Kevin Jensen and the Ukraine-based Na Vi team, don't mind breaking a sweat, and a few stereotypes.

"A lot of people see gamers as people who just sit there and eat Doritos, or what do you call Mountain Dew, and they just get big, and they don't care about themselves or anything," says Jensen.

But inside Alpharetta's Skillshot Media, esports in big business 90 top gamers from around the world come here, to compete in high-stakes tournaments that are broadcast online like sporting events.

Watching them practice, Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon and head of Northside Hospital's Sports Medicine program, admits at first she didn't get gamers.

"My first reaction to gaming was, 'I've got to get these kids out of the basement and moving, and why are they gaming all the time!'" says Dr. Wright.

But, Dr. Wright says, the more she watched the players, the more she realized, "They're athletes in the same way traditional athletes are. Like any thrower or baseball pitcher, they use their hands. They have acute eye-hand coordination," says Dr. Wright. "They have game-ending injuries."

Most days, Kevin Jensen and his team spends about 8 hours a day, headsets-on, staring at their screens competing in a game called Paladins.

"For me, I get tense neck. I get stressed out," says Jensen

Not good news because like most professional sports, there is a lot on the line. While teams like Na'Vi compete for prizes as high as a quarter of a million dollars, one2018 tournament purse for another game, Dota 2, was over $25 million, according to the website esportsearnings.com.

So, to keep its players in the game, SkillShot Media's Todd Harris teamed up with Dr. Wright to launch Northside's new E-Sports Medicine Program, training top gamers just like elite athletes.

"So you have to think about eye strain and back and shoulder and neck injury, and this is like an IT worker on steroids. You definitely can hurt your career and actually injure yourself," says Harris.

Kevin Jensen says the workouts are working.

"Most of us actually take it very seriously, at least our team."