Esports Players vs Pro Athletes: Differences and Similarities


  • Esports players, akin to traditional athletes, face intense physical and mental demands, with their training and discipline paralleling conventional sports regimes.
  • The global recognition and economic impact of esports are growing, challenging traditional definitions of sports and expanding the scope of professional athleticism.
  • Despite differences in physical exertion and public perception, esports players are redefining sportsmanship in the digital age, with their competitions drawing significant viewership and offering inclusive opportunities.

Can esports players be considered pro athletes? In an era where digital innovation shapes our daily lives, the world of competitive gaming, known as esports, has surged to prominence, sparking a global debate.

This question is more than a semantic debate; it touches on evolving cultural norms, definitions of athleticism, and the very nature of what constitutes a team sport. 

This article dives into the multifaceted arguments surrounding this topic, examining the case for and against the recognition of esports as real sports, and the broader implications of this evolving landscape.

The case for Esports as a sport

Recognition as a sport

In a world where digital prowess is increasingly celebrated, esports has emerged not just as a phenomenon but as a recognized discipline. Nations like South Korea, China, and South Africa have led the charge in acknowledging esports as an official sport. This recognition extends beyond national borders, with esteemed organizations such as the Olympic Committee spotlighting esports in events like the Olympic Virtual Series. This global endorsement marks a pivotal shift in how we perceive sports, expanding its definition to encompass the digital arena.

Physical and mental demands

The realm of esports challenges the stereotype that gaming is a sedentary activity. Studies have revealed that professional gamers endure physical strains akin to those experienced by traditional athletes. During intense competitions, a gamer’s heart rate can soar to levels comparable to marathon runners, and their stress hormone levels mirror those of Formula 1 drivers. This physiological data shatters the myth of gaming as a leisurely pastime, positioning it instead as an activity demanding exceptional physical and mental fortitude.

Moreover, the world of competitive gaming is not for the faint-hearted. It demands lightning-fast reflexes, acute strategic thinking, and unwavering concentration. These attributes are not just desirable but essential for success in the high-stakes environment of professional gaming, where every decision and reaction can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Esports players face their own set of physical challenges, including repetitive strain injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome, akin to the physical toll experienced by traditional athletes. The esports community is increasingly focusing on injury prevention and recovery, incorporating physical therapy and ergonomic practices into their routines. This aspect of esports highlights the physical investment and risks involved, drawing a parallel to the injury management and recovery processes in traditional sports.

Training and discipline

The journey to becoming an esports champion is paved with rigorous training and discipline, mirroring the dedication of elite athletes. Esports players undergo extensive mental and physical preparation, to hone their reaction time and game-sense through countless hours of practice and strategy refinement. This disciplined approach is a testament to their commitment to excellence, paralleling the dedication seen by the best athletes in conventional sports.

In esports, as in traditional sports, the role of coaches, analysts, and support staff is pivotal. These professionals help in strategizing, performance analysis, and mental conditioning of the players. The parallel in the structured approach to coaching and team management further solidifies the argument for esports as a legitimate sport.

Similarities in team dynamics

At its core, esports is a symphony of teamwork and communication, echoing the dynamics of traditional team sports. Just as in football or basketball, where coordination and strategy are paramount, esports teams thrive on effective communication and collaborative tactics. The synergy between the teams, the shared language of strategy, and the collective pursuit of a common goal underscores the parallels between esports and traditional sports, highlighting the universal nature of teamwork in competitive play.

The dynamics of team building and leadership in esports closely resemble those in traditional team sports. Building a cohesive unit, fostering communication, and developing leadership within the team are as critical in esports as they are in any traditional sports team.

Global economic impact

Esports has not only captured the imagination of millions worldwide but has also become a significant economic force. In terms of revenue generation, sponsorships, and market value, esports is rapidly closing in on traditional sports. The industry’s growth trajectory, marked by lucrative sponsorships and increasing investment from mainstream brands, mirrors the financial dynamics seen in established sports leagues. This economic validation is a crucial factor in bolstering esports’ claim to being a legitimate sport.

Technological advancements

The intersection of gaming and cutting-edge technology has elevated the esports experience, paralleling the technological evolution in traditional sports. From high-definition live streams to virtual reality (VR) training environments, technology is not just an enabler but a key differentiator in esports. This mirrors the impact of technologies like video assistant referees (VAR) in football, underscoring how technological innovation is integral to the evolution of both traditional and digital sports.

What are some critical differences?

Lack of physical exertion

While the digital battles of esports captivate millions, a fundamental difference sets them apart from traditional sports like basketball: the absence of significant physical exertion. Traditional sports, by their very nature, involve a level of physical activity that is integral to their identity. This absence is not just a minor detail in gaming but a core aspect that challenges the classification of esports within the traditional sports category. The physical demands of running on a field, swimming laps, or jumping hurdles are in stark contrast to the stationary position of a gamer engaged in a competitive video game.

Public perception and definitions

The perception of what an athlete is and whether professional esport players fall in the same category is deeply ingrained in societal norms and language. Dictionaries, often seen as the arbiters of language, typically define ‘sport’ and ‘athlete’ with an emphasis on physical activity and prowess. This linguistic framing places esports in a precarious position, often leading to its exclusion from the traditional sports category.

The general public’s understanding of sports, shaped by these definitions, struggles to reconcile the sedentary nature of gaming with the dynamic physicality associated with conventional sports. This disconnect in perception and definition creates a barrier to esports’ acceptance as a legitimate sport in the eyes of many.

The acceptance of esports varies significantly across cultures. In some regions, esports players are celebrated similarly to traditional sports stars, while in others, there remains a skepticism about categorizing digital gaming as a sport. This cultural disparity affects the global perception and acceptance of esports.

Health concerns among Esports players

A significant concern associated with esports is the sedentary lifestyle it promotes. Unlike traditional sports, which encourage physical fitness and activity, esports professionals often spend prolonged periods sitting on a chair. This lifestyle can contribute to health issues commonly linked to inactivity, such as obesity, poor posture, and related musculoskeletal problems among esports players.

While esports players need mental agility and strategic thinking, it does little to promote the physical well-being of its participants, raising questions about its overall impact on health. This aspect of gaming is a critical point of contention for those who argue against categorizing esports alongside physically demanding sports.

Recognizing the sedentary nature of professional gaming, there is a growing emphasis on lifestyle and wellness programs for esports players. These initiatives aim to promote physical fitness and well-being, addressing health concerns commonly associated with prolonged gaming.

Blurring lines and evolving Definitions

Changing definitions

As the digital age reshapes our world, esports stands at the forefront of redefining what we perceive as sports and esports players. This evolution challenges the traditional boundaries and definitions that have long governed these concepts. Today, both sports and esports players have fans all over the world that look up to them. However, the interaction with esports players usually happens via a streaming platform.

The rise of esports compels us to reconsider and expand our understanding of athleticism, moving beyond the confines of physical exertion to include mental prowess and digital mastery. This shift is not just a trend but a reflection of a broader societal transformation where digital and virtual competencies are gaining recognition as legitimate forms of skill and competition.

Cognitive and psychological parallels

The comparison between esports players and traditional athletes extends into the realms of cognitive function and psychological resilience. Studies have shown that the mental agility, strategic planning, team tactics, focus, and stress management required in high-level esports are remarkably similar to those in traditional sports.

Both esports players and traditional sports players undergo intense psychological pressure and must make split-second decisions that can determine the outcome of a game. This mental focus and capacity to manage stress under high-stakes conditions underscore a shared psychological landscape between gaming and traditional sports athletes.

Inclusivity in esports

One of the most compelling aspects of esports is its inclusivity, particularly for professional esports players with physical disabilities. Gaming opens a door to high-level competition that might be inaccessible in traditional sports due to physical limitations in a virtual environment.

This inclusivity not only democratizes the field of competitive play but also celebrates diversity in skill and talent. By providing a platform where physical constraints are less of a barrier, esports players a more inclusive view of competition and excellence, allowing a broader range of individuals to engage in and excel at esports.


The debate over whether esports players should be classified as athletes reflects a broader conversation about the evolution of sports and competition in the digital age. On one hand, the recognition of esports by countries and organizations, its mental and physical demands, and the rigorous training and discipline of its players mirror many aspects of traditional sports. 

On the other hand, the lack of physical exertion among esports players, traditional definitions of sports, and health concerns associated with a sedentary lifestyle present compelling counterarguments.

Ultimately, the recognition of esports players as athletes may hinge less on fitting into existing categories and more on our willingness to adapt and expand our definitions in response to a rapidly changing world. 

As digital and physical realms continue to converge, the distinction between traditional athletes and esports competitors may become less relevant. Fans worldwide are giving way to a new era of sports where physical and digital athleticism are celebrated equally.


Can esports be considered a healthy activity like traditional sports?

Esports can promote mental agility and strategic thinking in professional gamers, but it lacks the physical activity component that contributes to overall physical health.

Are there any educational or career opportunities emerging in the esports industry?

Yes, the esports industry offers diverse career opportunities to esports players, including game development, event management, and professional coaching.

How do esports tournaments compare to traditional sports in terms of prize money and viewership?

Top esports tournaments often offer substantial prize money and attract large global viewership, comparable to many traditional sports events.

Is there an age limit for professional athletes in esports?

While there's no universal age limit for esports players, some leagues and tournaments have minimum age requirements, typically around 16-18 years.

Do esports athletes undergo any form of physical training?

Yes, many esports playersplayers engage in physical training to improve endurance, reduce stress, and enhance overall performance.

How is the fan experience in esports different from traditional sports?

Esports fans engage primarily online, enjoying interactive and global community interactions, unlike the more location-based and physical attendance-focused experience of traditional sports.

What role does technology play in the training of esports players?

Technology is central in esports training, providing tools for strategy analysis, skill enhancement, and game scenario simulations, differing from the more physical training focus in traditional sports.

Are there governing bodies in esports similar to traditional sports organizations?

Yes, esports has governing bodies like ESL and IESF, overseeing rules and fair play, though the governance structure is more varied due to the diversity of games and leagues.

How does the career lifespan of esports players compare to traditional sports athletes?

Esports players typically have shorter careers, often retiring in their late 20s or early 30s, due to the fast-paced nature of the industry and intense mental demands.

What impact has esports had on mainstream media and entertainment?

Esports has significantly influenced mainstream media, with major networks broadcasting events and traditional sports teams investing in esports, elevating its status in entertainment.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Shummas Humayun

Shummas is a technical content creator, programmer, and a published STEM researcher. He also enjoys coffee, and gaming in his free time.

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