Don't laugh. This is serious.

Career-Ending Injury

No matter where you stand on the "can video games be sports?" debate, it can't be denied that professional gaming has become a competitive commercial space, with many of the same things that make other sports so captivating like charismatic pros, major sponsorship deals, and massive events.

But now, a more unfortunate overlap between Esports and conventional athletics is emerging: career-ending injuries, as illustrated by professional "Call of Duty" player Thomas Paparatto's Tuesday retirement announcement. Paparatto, who plays under the moniker "ZooMaa," could no longer compete through an ongoing thumb and wrist injury, NBC News reports, marking the end of a prominent competitive gaming career.

"Playing through the weakness and pain in my hand just isn't possible anymore," Paparatto wrote in his announcement.

Early Retirement

Paparatto's injury may seem minor compared to the shattered bones or brain damage that athletes face in contact sports. But the injuries that force players into early retirement will always vary by sport — and regardless of any such comparisons, it means Paparatto is cut off from his livelihood with a professional team.

"In all sports you'll find people who put in the hours, unfortunately some will be injured... and this also applies to eSports," Mark Griffiths, the director of Nottingham Trent University's International Gaming Research Unit, told NBC.

Detached View

Personal tragedy aside, the emergence of career-ending injuries in eSports is interesting from an academic perspective because it symbolizes another way that competitive gaming is like any other sport.

"We're at a really exciting point with games in our societies now," Oxford Internet Institute director Andrew Pryzybylski told NBC. "They're no longer seen as a pursuit of social outcasts, they're now part of the mainstream"

READ MORE: Professional video-gamer, 25, hangs up controller over thumb injury [NBC News]

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