12 September 2023

Pro-gamer Jukeyz ‘died for two minutes’ after cardiac arrest which left him ‘scared to sleep’

12 September 2023

Pro-gamer Liam ‘Jukeyz’ James has revealed he was left clinically dead for two minutes after having a cardiac arrest.The 26-year-old esports athlete had a severe asthma attack in 2022, causing his heart to stop – and was put in a coma for three days.

James, who has over 200k followers under his screen name Jukeyz on the gaming streaming site Twitch – where fans can watch gamers playing – described the cardiac arrest as “properly scary”.

He told the PA news agency: “It was petrifying when I woke up. I didn’t know what had gone on. I just cried in the hospital, I was scared to sleep, scared to be alone.”

The incident happened just six weeks after James – who made his name playing Call Of Duty: Warzone, the popular first-person shooter game – became a dad for the first time.

“[It] really opened my eyes – I was too distracted from my health by my career, so I now get checked frequently. The doctors and nurses said it was a miracle,” he revealed.

The Liverpudlian was back to pro-gaming soon after a 10-day stint in hospital. “I was in LA around a week after I left the hospital to compete. I wasn’t going to sit and feel sorry for myself.”

James spent his childhood in and out of hospital due to asthma, bringing his dreams of pro-footballing to an end after trials at Liverpool FC academy.

“I never talk about me [being] in and out of hospital, as a kid I spent so much time in intensive care – I was really sick,” said the Red Bull athlete.

Now though, he’s living many young gamers’ dream – playing video games for up to 14 hours a day as his job since 2020, having previously worked long, gruelling hours on an oil rig.

It’s a career that’s earned him enough money through competitions and Twitch to even pay off his parents’ mortgage in 2021, giving them £15,000 of his winnings from a tournament.

“That win is where I got my confidence from. I then knew I could beat anyone and everyone,” he said.

James, who now competes against the best gamers in the world, is currently preparing to compete in the World Series of Warzone Global Final in London on September 16.

As part of the prep, he underwent intensive mental and physical preparation at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Centre (APC) in Salzburg, Austria – where the likes of racing driver Max Verstappen and downhill mountain biking star Rachel Atherton train.

For those new to gaming, Warzone is “a classic battle royale”, he explained. “The last man standing wins.”

The genre rose to prominence in the gaming world in the 2010s, as apocalyptic, sole-survivor games became hugely popular.

Call Of Duty: Warzone is American video game publisher Activision’s second attempt at incorporating the genre in their Call Of Duty series (the first was Blackout), and its online multiplayer format makes it popular among streamers.

Rappers Offset and Wiz Khalifa have been featured in streams of Warzone gameplay, and celebrities like Nicki Minaj and Jeff Goldblum feature as playable characters in the Call Of Duty franchise.

James himself has played Warzone with DJ Steve Aoki, who is well known in the game.

“[Aoki] called me one of his boys… that was crazy. I grew up listening to his music,” he recalled.

Supporting his mum, dad and younger brother are a top priority for the gamer. He and his brother “had nothing going for us grades-wise”, James added. “I got my maths and English GCSEs in the end… so now if I can help my little brother with his business, I will.”

Now a parent to son Elijah with his partner Emily, he continued: “My motivation is my family. I have a son I want to give the world to.”

One day, James hopes esports “will be as big” as mainstream sports, and at the Red Bull APC, training is surprisingly physical for gamers.

Strength and conditioning coach Christoph Wyss – previously head performance coach for the Chinese Olympic Committee – has been putting James through his paces to prepare for the big London tournament.

“We have been placing a huge focus on moderation [for nutrition]. We are trying to encourage esports athletes to eat more vegetables, in whatever form they want, and to be more balanced,” Wyss said.

James, who has an infectious energy and seems to rarely sit still, is taking steps to avoid unhealthy eating patterns.

“I often miss breakfast, I am not a breakfast person. But, what I eat is important as an esports athlete,” he said, adding that during his early years competing as a pro gamer: “I would take five pounds of my winnings a day and get chips and fried rice from the chip shop. But the fridge is stocked with healthier meal prep now.”

His nutrition is closely managed by Red Bull and he receives regular meal prep boxes that are low in fat and sugar from Merseyside meal prep company, Benno Box.

He’s increasing the vitamin D in his diet to help him perform better, as gaming for long periods of time often means limited sunlight.

Wyss has also been focussing on strength to help support James’ body, including extensive ‘reaction training’ – such as rapid pushing of flashing buttons, or catching different coloured sticks to improve his hand-eye coordination, as well as exercises to reduce the repetitive impact of gaming.

Wyss explained: “It is important to focus on the wrist and hand strength to try and protect from carpal tunnel syndrome” – a common but painful condition where there’s pressure on a nerve in the wrist.

“With gamers, there is less of an acute injury risk, but we need to get them doing strength and mobility exercises to stop them getting chronic injuries., with stretches for the fingers, hands and wrists, even just gripping a dumbbell.

“For esports athletes, I’m always just telling them to move. They are sitting for so long in the same position, so they need to focus on general movement, even just a walk. We [also] focus on flex and extension in the hips and back,” Wyss added.

James is particularly eager to get into running, and weave the fitness focus he has gained in Salzburg into daily life.

He said: “I’m working harder away from the game to think and behave like an athlete.”

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