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Published on: 13-Feb-2023

Most children tend to play for countless hours. As a parent, you should encourage your child to get regular physical activity to balance their inactive periods. However, some kids have medical conditions that may inhibit their ability to do sports as much as other children.  

Heart conditions, in particular, can be life-threatening for some. Certain heart diseases may lead to heart attacks and strokes. Thus, you mustn’t ignore them, especially if your child has one. They can develop over time and worsen without proper treatment. But you also can’t forgo your child’s need for exercise.  

Fortunately, it’s still possible for a kid to play sports despite the challenges. Although, their ability to participate depends on the severity. Keep reading to learn more about heart conditions and gauge whether or not it’s safe for your child to stay active.

Common Pediatric Heart Conditions

As a parent, remember that not all heart conditions are the same. Some are mild and allow a person to continue an active lifestyle after treatment. Meanwhile, others are fatal and may require the patient to limit physical activities.

While it’s still early, you must recognize your child’s condition and know the correct treatment methods. You can click here to learn about reputable hospitals specializing in pediatric cardiac services. Most medical practitioners categorize heart conditions into one of four major types:

Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs are often the sound of blood rushing through the heart’s arteries. They’re not a severe condition. But sometimes, that murmuring sound comes from a leak or the narrowing of the heart valves. After intense exercise, people with this condition may have irregular heartbeats or weakening hearts.

The heart’s timing and pitch are the leading indicators of a heart murmur. Your child’s cardiologist may recommend an echocardiogram to observe how their heart functions with their condition. If it’s working as expected or there are no signs of holes in the arteries, your kid can get into sports with their pediatrician’s permission.

Genetic Heart Diseases

From the name itself, these conditions stem from a person’s ancestry. Mutations in genes are the usual causes of these issues. Kids born into families with a history of heart conditions are more likely to be born with them than others. 

Genetic heart diseases are quite often fatal. And unfortunately, these conditions don’t always present visible symptoms. However, you could recognize if your child inherited a cardiac condition if they show sudden palpitations or blackouts. You must immediately take them to the doctor if they experience this frequently at home or school.

Sadly, a child with genetic heart disease might not be allowed to play high-intensity sports for the rest of their life. However, there’s still ongoing research to determine the best and safest physical activity they can do.

You might have to consult your child’s pediatrician for more advice. As of 2015, athletes with genetic heart issues can undergo a special examination and participate in an exercise tailored to their condition.

Congenital Heart Diseases

Sometimes, a baby’s family might not have a history of cardiac diseases. But they’ll still be born with one. What they have is called congenital heart disease. It’s a condition that develops while still in the mother’s womb. Causes range from the mother’s lifestyle, diet, and medications. In some cases, it could also be a genetic issue.

Previously, doctors would restrict anyone with congenital heart disease from physical activity. But current medical research has shown that it’s acceptable for patients to participate in light to moderate exercise. They could benefit from regular movement. If the child has regular care for their condition, they can thrive while playing sports.

Coronary Artery Diseases

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a type of acquired heart disease in some children and adults. Unlike genetic and congenital cardiac conditions, symptoms are not always present at birth, and a kid may have CAD later in life. So, an active child athlete could acquire a heart disease when they age. 

Heart attacks are one of the first signs of CAD. Fatty deposits line the artery’s inner walls, blocking blood from passing through. Treatment depends on the type of CAD a child has. Some may only require frequent medication or steroid intake, while others might need surgery. 

Children with CAD can still play sports, no matter the intensity. The exercise could also benefit them by preventing adverse developments in their condition and premature death. As always, it’s best to seek the advice of your child’s doctor if they have CAD. 

Based on this information, it’s not impossible for a child with a heart condition to quit sports altogether. But if your kid has it, you must look for the signs and symptoms that could manifest while playing.

Usual Signs and Symptoms

Each of the four types and the conditions under them displays varying symptoms. However, most of them show common signs. One of the signs you’ll see in a child with a heart condition is fatigue. Kids with cardiac issues tend to get tired quickly compared to other active children their age. 

Another symptom is chest pain. If your child complains of chest pain while playing sports, you may have to let them rest to allow their heart rate to return to normal. Shortness of breath is also common among people with heart conditions. Some children could have dizziness and fainting spells when playing for an extended period.  

Sometimes, heart conditions manifest through swollen hands, legs, ankles, or feet. Skin rashes may also develop. Other kids might turn pale or blue after extended physical activities.

You and your child’s coach or teacher must know these signs because, in most sports, things can happen quickly. You may be unable to spot those changes in the child while they play. You must also communicate with your child to inform them or an adult in charge if they’re feeling unwell. Immediate and proper intervention through first aid and professional help can save the child’s life, especially if they have a severe condition.

Sports They Can Play

However, remember that even children with the same disease may have different diagnoses and treatments. So, one kid may be allowed to participate in intense sports while the other may not.  

A child who uses defibrillators or pacemakers might have limited options. In their cases, their doctor can restrict them from playing high-intensity contact sports. But that doesn’t mean they can only do one physical activity. Pediatricians recommend that children play multiple sports to prevent burnout and injuries. 

Some examples of sports children with heart conditions can safely participate in include:

  • Cycling
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Tennis

These activities are ideal for building up a child’s endurance. Of course, their doctor must approve of these sports and give your kid a thorough examination first.

Perhaps a child isn’t interested in typical sports. You can introduce low-intensity activities like brisk walking with the family dog, resistance exercises, or yoga. What matters is they get their blood and body moving and avoid staying stationary.

Precautions Before Playing

Most schools require children with medical conditions to have a physical exam before letting them join sports groups. Before your kid joins a sports club or team, you must get their pediatrician’s approval. They may recommend a pre-participation cardiac screening in tandem with their physical examination. 

A cardiologist and your child’s physician may work together for the cardiac screening. Based on the results, they will suggest the appropriate physical activities your kid can do. Failure to perform a test before a child joins any sport may lead to cardiac arrest, which could be fatal.

Precautions for a child with heart conditions don’t stop there. Their school must have someone other than the nurses, like a coach or teacher, trained in CPR. They can provide first aid help before medical professionals arrive if a problem arises. Additionally, the school should have an automated external defibrillator (AED) on standby, just in case.

Why Children Should Play Sports

Despite medical issues, kids need regular physical activity for their development. Rest is necessary, but exercise is essential for their overall health. Playing sports is also vital for children’s social and mental well-being since sports and play release the happy hormone endorphin.

Children with chronic illnesses may show signs of low confidence. It could happen if they don’t spend much time playing with their friends and schoolmates due to their condition. Involving your kid in the appropriate sports allows them to mingle with children in their age group. The consistent interactions will help improve their confidence and develop leadership skills.

Aside from physical health, children who play sports also show academic excellence. Exercising provides mental clarity, which helps kids absorb more information from their lessons. Hence, it’s usual to see many students take up sports as an extracurricular to balance out the brain exercises they do in their classes.

Most heart diseases could put children at risk of obesity, especially if they remain stationary for long periods. Lack of exercise also makes children prone to easily avoidable sicknesses like colds. Thus, a kid must take up at least two different sports or physical activities their pediatrician recommends or allows.

Final Thoughts

A medical condition shouldn’t prevent a child from living their best life. Their early years are crucial for physical, mental, and social development. So, even if they have a heart issue, they can still participate in sports if they wish. However, they must only do so with the advice of their pediatrician and a cardiologist to ensure they remain safe and healthy.