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How People With Epilepsy Can Enjoy Sport

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 13 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Epilepsy Tony Greig Education

Cricket lovers of a certain age have great memories of Tony Greig – an assured presence in the field who could be very handy with a bat on occasion. What was not widely known about the then England captain at the height of his fame in international cricket was that he had been diagnosed with epilepsy as a teenager.

Greig has now graduated to the commentary box. And when he doesn’t have a microphone in his hand, he has spoken about his condition and offered encouragement to fellow sufferers.

Since Greig hit the sporting heights in the early 1970s, there has been great progress made both in terms of medical management of epilepsy and, equally importantly, education concerning how people with the condition are affected and what it means for their family and friends.

This demystifying of the condition has meant sufferers are more open about discussing it and, consequently, more confident about grabbing opportunities to enjoy life. In this respect, sport has an important role to play because it offers inclusiveness that can only further build up this confidence.

No barrier to getting involved

After all, people with epilepsy are no different to anyone else in every other respect, and their condition should not in most cases present a barrier to getting involved, especially given the medication available to control seizures. Nevertheless, given each case is different, it is essential that before taking up a chosen sport, a consultation should be arranged with a patient’s doctor.

There should be consultation, too, with the management at the venues where an individual will be playing sport. Advise them that you are suffering from epilepsy and find out what provisions they have in place in terms of medical assistance so that should a seizure take place, you can be assured there will be someone on standby who is trained in how to react to such a situation. In gyms, for example, medical screening is standard for new member applications. Don’t be shy about discussing your epilepsy and what support you will need from the trainers – they should be experienced in discussing such matters.

Safety measure

So what sports are accessible to people with epilepsy? A great many is the answer. However advice should be sought in each individual case, in respect of how well your seizures are controlled. For example, swimmers should think about wearing a life vest purely as a safety measure, while runners may find exercising with a buddy provides them with reassurance that help is at hand. Risk to both the rider themselves and those they may come into contact with will influence where it is safe to enjoy cycling; again a buddy can help by providing guidance and reassurance.

Ensure that nutrition is planned into whatever exercise regime you undertake; in other words, don’t skip a meal prior to sport, and make sure you restore your energy levels afterwards. Similarly, have liquids close at hand before, during and after workouts. The same planning should be applied to warming up and warming down, to minimise the risk of injury and avoidance of aching muscles.

The benefits of sport should not be underestimated, and today there are so many opportunities to enjoy it. Role models such as Tony Greig are living proof that sufferers of epilepsy don’t have to be left on the sidelines. So get involved.

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