Call of Duty pro ZooMaa retires due to recurring wrist injury

Retired COD esports pro Thomas 'ZooMaa' Paparello.
(Image credit: Thomas Paparatto / New York Subliners)

Professional esports player Thomas 'ZooMaa' Paparatto has announced his retirement from the Call of Duty scene. The player's pro career began in December 2013 with a two-month stint on the NA team Bati (now defunct), before he began making a name for himself with Denial Esports in 2014 as part of the winning team at UMG Dallas 2014 (a Call of Duty: Ghosts tournament). Most of ZooMaa's career was spent at FaZe Clan from 2015 to 2019, and for the last year he's been with the New York Subliners.

ZooMaa explained the decision in a twitlonger post, and it comes down to the return of a long-term injury.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever had to write, I am stepping down and will no longer compete in competitive Call of Duty for the foreseeable future," writes Zooma. "Not sure if many of you remember, but a few years back while on FaZe, I struggled with weakness in my thumb/wrist and needed surgery. Going through that process of getting healthy again was one of the hardest things I ever had to do both physically & mentally, which led to a lot of stress and anxiety.

"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. Playing through the weakness and pain in my hand just isn't possible anymore. I don't enjoy competing when I can't be the ZooMaa everyone knows and loves and feel like it's not fair to myself or to my team to go through all that again, potentially causing more damage to my hand."

The news comes just days before the Call of Duty League's latest season is due to begin, and leaves the NY Subliners with a gap in its roster to fill. The team posted thanking ZooMaa and wishing him a speedy recovery.

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The sad news surfaces an omnipresent issue for esports organisations, which is how to keep their players healthy. Some might sneer at the designation of athletes with regards to esports but, as Katie notes in that piece, "tell that to the esports pros suffering from repetitive strain injury, or tennis elbow." The physical risks and the toll that the pro lifestyle can take on a young person's body are real.

ZooMaa's career lasted eight years, and he's now 25 years old. He sees his future as still being linked to COD in some way ("I love this game too much to walk away completely") though clearly the physical risk makes a playing comeback unlikely.

"It's been an amazing run," writes ZooMaa. "I don't regret anything and I am grateful to have had a long playing career doing what I love to do at such a high level. I have met so many amazing people through esports, and have made so many friendships I’ll continue to cherish for the rest of my life."

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."