News of re-aggravation to a wrist injury Hax sustained in May brings forth a sobering realization to longtime Melee players everywhere. Technical heyday in this game does not last forever–and without proper health practices, might even be cut short. Hour-long lab sessions are often talked of with pride, hand cramps badges of valor in a Melee community that both reveres and rewards hard work. But with Hax stating he will more than likely require surgery, the consequences of these habits appear very serious indeed.

High-profile e-sports are no strangers to debilitating wrist and hand injuries. With Brood War legend Flash undergoing surgery in 2011, the retirement of GanZi due to wrist injury, and other top players such as Taeja having also considered retirement, the Starcraft scene (home to some of the fastest players on planet Earth) has already felt the crippling effects of tendonitis and its related conditions. They are not alone.

Starcraft icon Flash recovering from surgery in 2011. Image courtesy of

Melee’s top players have been active for years. With the competitive scene well over a decade old, we’ve been able to watch storied careers develop before our eyes. Much of what we see now is a finished product–thousands of hours working a GameCube controller in grueling training sessions and long-winded friendly bouts. With a furiously-paced game like Melee, these many hours certainly have taken their toll on our most experienced players. Mew2King’s wrist and hand issues have been well documented throughout the years, but he’s hardly the only one suffering. Mango was recently spotted on stream stating he believes his hands have only one to two years of Fox left in them at max. And with players like Fiction reducing the amount they play space animals in favor of lower-APM characters such as Marth, it seems 20XX is a prophecy that churns its prophets through a grinder of demanding, often painful button training.

Could the Melee community be faced with the reality that many of its current stars have passed their physical prime? In traditional sports, the prime of an athlete’s career is viewed with both wonder, and a somber understanding that the clock is ever ticking. Father Time, as we know, is an undefeated challenger. The most technically demanding characters in Melee, Fox and Falco, while arguably the most entertaining and powerful, seem to put time limits on their handlers’ careers. Even many of Starcraft’s top players without serious hand and wrist injury admit they aren’t able to match pace with the quick reflexes and fresh hands of young blood–keep in mind that in the world of e-sports, an ‘aged’ player might be only in his/her mid-twenties.

In the early years of competition, it might have seemed inconceivable that some of Melee’s top and rising talent could have their careers cut short by injury–but with Hax’s forced and indefinite hiatus, as well as pages of unfortunate history to look back on, it’s clear these dark possibilities are very real.

One of the keys in preventing wrist and hand injury, aside from frequent breaks, are effective stretches. Plenty of information on preventing carpal tunnel exists online; but it’s up to Melee players putting in serious hours to practice these good habits in order to sustain their careers. With the explosion of Melee as a professional scene, the potential health risks playing at a high level presents will continue to be a major point of concern for both players and fans alike–we can only spread awareness and hope that our finest players remain cognizant and healthy.