Do eSports players need long-term disability insurance?

Colin Lalley 1600

By

Colin Lalley

Colin Lalley

Associate Content Director, Home & Auto Insurance

Colin Lalley is the associate content director of home and auto insurance at Policygenius, where he leads our property & casualty editorial teams. His insights have been featured in Inc. Magazine, Betterment, Chime, Credit Seasame, Zola, and the Council for Disability Awareness.

Updated|3 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

Do you consider playing video games to be a sport? Do you know what "mid laning" is? Have you ever heard of Echo Fox, the eSports team founded by ex-NBA player/actor/professional good-looking person Rick Fox? Maybe not. But the eSports industry is a billion-dollar field, so it’s clearly moving from the fringes to the mainstream. According to Bloomberg’s Decrypted podcast, players in the League of Legends Championship Series, or LCS, can be paid six-figures salaries. There are millions of dollars pouring into some teams, and there’s a lot on the line. But what happens if a player gets injured?

Long-term disability insurance protects an eSports player's income if they are injured or ill and unable to work. You might not think this would be particularly applicable to someone who sits behind a keyboard or a controller for a living, but the career of a professional video game player might warrant long-term disability insurance.

Injuries sustained by professional eSports players

Let’s get this out of the way first: most disabilities are caused by illness rather than an injury related to work. So whether you’re a factory worker or a lawyer or, yes, and eSports player, making sure you have income if you can’t work is a good choice. It can happen to anyone.

Whether the game is League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros, Overwatch or any other number of games, there are a few things players have in common. There’s a lot of sitting, a lot of slouching, and a lot of repetitive movement that causes strain on hands and arms and cause some common injuries. These include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, trigger finger, and tendinopathy. You might see those from your everyday office worker, but eSports gamers click and tap faster and more frequently than the rest of us. In 2015, Hai Lam, one of the world’s biggest League of Legends players, retired, citing wrist injury:

My wrist injury is something that I simply cannot ignore. It limits my ability to play as much as I need to and my ability to improve. I cannot keep up with the amount of Solo Queue games my teammates play and it’s not fair to them. At best, my wrist injury would have only allowed me to play for another split and that wasn’t even certain.

Lam stayed on with team Cloud9 as Chief Gaming Officer, helping to grow the team’s players and partnerships. But his career as a player, at least for now, is at an end.

He’s not the only one. League of Legends player Heo "pawN" Won-seok missed two months of action due to back injury. Dota 2’s Clinton "Fear" Loomis had to skip games due to a bout of tennis elbow. Once players are too injured to play, they lose the money they were making from playing eSports professionally. Especially because most professional players don’t receive any sort of insurance from their league or team, which means there’s no protection if they’re unable to work. And it isn’t like getting an injury fixed is cheap, either; according to data provided by Amino, carpal tunnel surgery in the Los Angeles area (where teams like Echo Fox are based) can range from $3,100 to nearly $4,400.

eSports and long-term disability insurance

There’s no question that eSports players can purchase a private long-term disability policy to protect their income. But exactly what kind of coverage they get can be tricky due to their occupation.

Own-occupation policies cover you while you can’t perform your own occupation; any-occupation policies cover you if you can’t work any job. How does this come into play? Let’s go back to Hai Lam, who is out of action because of his disability. He didn’t completely quit the scene, though; instead, he moved from being a player to being an executive. If Lam did have long-term disability insurance and it was an own-occupation policy, he’d get income replacement (because he isn’t able to perform his own occupation, professional eSports player) while still being able to take on a new role. However, if Lam had an any occupation policy, he wouldn’t be eligible for benefits exactly because he is able to work in another capacity – as Cloud9’s Chief Gaming Officer.

All this goes to say that even if your job isn't dangerous, it's still possible to become disabled. This means that you should have a long-term disability plan to protect you financially no matter what you do for a living.