A prolific gamer has been forced to retire at the age of 25 after a thumb injury brought his promising esporting career to a premature end.
Thomas Paparatto, known as ZooMaa to fellow gamers and fans, has played multiplayer shooter game Call of Duty (CoD) competitively since 2013, quickly rising to become one of the franchise’s most revered players.
Best known for his four-and-a-half years playing with gaming clan FaZe, he joined professional team the New York Subliners in 2019.
Esports, or competitive video gaming, is a hugely competitive industry on track to surpass a value of $1.5bn (£1.1bn) by 2023, that makes superstars of its most talented and popular players.
ZooMaa said he first noticed weakness in his thumb and wrist during his time with FaZe, undergoing surgery to correct the problem.
“Going through that process of getting healthy again was one of the hardest things I ever had to do both physically and mentally, which led to a lot of stress and anxiety,” he wrote in a Twitter statement.
“Unfortunately the injury has returned, making it really hard for me to compete at the highest level against some of the best players in the world.”
Struggling to cope with the pain
The 25-year old said he no longer enjoys competing and struggles to play through the pain, and that he was concerned about damaging his hand further by continuing to compete.
“It breaks my heart to step away from a game I put my heart and soul into every single day for eight years,” he continued.
“I love CoD and e-sports in general so much, and will continue to show my love and support to the scene.
“I’m not sure what the future holds, and will explore all options as I love this game too much to walk away completely. I look at it as one door closing and another one opening.”
The New York Subliners thanked ZooMaa for his service and wished him a speed recovery, meaning the team has just days to find a substitute player before the latest Call of Duty competitive season begins.
ZooMaa’s early retirement highlights the health problems many professional egamers face. Eye fatigue, and pain in the neck, back, hand or wrist are among the most commonly-reported complaints, according to a 2019 study published in the BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine journal.