Heart Warriors Can Still Get into the Game

Sports can be an important part of childhood and being active in general is recommended for all kids to stave off obesity, increase cardiovascular health, improve mental health, and foster a sense of belonging with peers. One of the questions that families often have when they learn about a child’s CHD is, “Will my child be able to play sports?”

Depending on the severity of the underlying condition, many children with CHD can participate in all different levels of sports with minor or no restrictions, said Glen Iannucci, MD, Director of the Aorta and Vascular Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology.

The American Heart Association publishes a set of guidelines to help healthcare providers fully assess a child’s risk and determine what limitations are appropriate based on the nature of their original heart defect and what residual problems, if any, remain after correction. For example, some conditions, such as dilated blood vessels or aneurysms, would make certain contact sports or weightlifting problematic, but a sport like cross country could be a good option.

In addition, the AAP publishes the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation forms, used by most schools in Georgia for sports clearances. The form is designed to identify “red flags” that can indicate underlying heart disease in kids including a history of chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting with exercise or a family history of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), drowning or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

If cardiac conditions are uncovered through this process that take young athletes out of playing their sports competitively, they could decide to still be involved in the sport while reducing their risk through avenues like becoming a referee or helping coach younger kids.

“Our first line of defense is to identify people before they have trouble on the field,” Dr. Iannucci said. “Our second line of defense is to have an emergency plan in place at schools and sports venues and train people how to respond quickly to sudden cardiac arrest with CPR and having an AED onsite.”

Project S.A.V.E., started by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in 2004, brings automated external defibrillator (AED) and CPR training directly to Georgia schools, athletic leagues, and community centers. When sudden cardiac arrest occurs outside of a hospital, a person only has about a 10 percent chance of survival. However, if the cardiac arrest occurs in a Georgia school that has been prepared for such an event through Project S.A.V.E., the survival rate jumps to 80 percent.

For more information about Project S.A.V.E. or to arrange a free consultation for your school or organization, contact Richard Lamphier, Clinical Program Manager of Project S.A.V.E., at 404-785-7201 or richard.lamphier@choa.org.

Project S.A.V.E. is an affiliate of Project ADAM, a program of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

For more information about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.


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