Study: Video Games Can Be Lethal for Children With Heart Conditions

Study: Video Games Can Be Lethal for Children With Heart Conditions
Two boys playing with an XBox game console in Vezin, Belgium, on March 26, 2020. (Bruno Fahy/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)
Darlene McCormick Sanchez

A new study by the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network has found that electronic gaming can be deadly for children with heart conditions.

The study, published Oct. 10 in the journal Heart Rhythm,  revealed that playing video games can cause life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia—an irregular heartbeat—in susceptible children, who may have an undiagnosed heart condition.

Australian researchers reviewed 69 reports on cardiovascular risks from electronic gaming, identifying 22 children and teens who lost consciousness while playing video games and experienced irregular heart rhythms and other heart complications.

Nineteen of the primarily male gamers, age 7-16, experienced ventricular arrhythmia, a severe abnormal heartbeat that can cause cardiac arrest. Six had heart attacks, and four died suddenly.

In a news release, lead investigator Claire M. Lawley, with The Heart Centre for Children in Sydney, Australia, pointed out the hidden dangers video games might pose.

“Video games may represent a serious risk to some children with arrhythmic conditions; they might be lethal in patients with predisposing, but often previously unrecognized arrhythmic conditions,” she said. “Children who suddenly lose consciousness while electronic gaming should be assessed by a heart specialist, as this could be the first sign of a serious heart problem.”

Of the 22 cases in the study who suffered heart problems, 86 percent were male and 14 percent were female.

The type of game was not noted in all 22 cases researchers examined. But the study found that war games were being played by 62 percent of patients, or eight out of 13, when an adverse heart event occurred.

The end of the game seemed to generate the most cardiac events, with seven patients experiencing incidents at that stage of play, the reports indicated.

The findings suggest parents should watch their children for warning signs while they play video games, such as fainting or blacking out when excited, which might indicate an underlying heart condition, Lawley said.

And exertion should be understood to encompass activities outside of traditional competitive athletics, especially in light of the growth of electronic gaming over the past 20 years, according to Dr. Daniel Sohinki, with the Department of Cardiology at Augusta University in Georgia, along with other co-authors, writing in an accompanying editorial in the journal.

Appropriate counseling regarding the risks of intense video gameplay should be targeted in children with a proarrhythmic cardiac diagnosis, which involves an irregular heartbeat, the editorial suggested. It also should be considered for any child with a history of  fainting or passing out brought on by exertion.

Further, any future screening programs aimed at identifying athletes at risk for malignant arrhythmias should encompass athletes being considered for participation in electronic sports, also known as eSports, the editorial said. Esports often involve fast-paced, multi-player matches between gamers playing individually or on teams.

Darlene McCormick Sanchez is an Epoch Times reporter who covers border security and immigration, election integrity, and Texas politics. Ms. McCormick Sanchez has 20 years of experience in media and has worked for outlets including Waco Tribune Herald, Tampa Tribune, and Waterbury Republican-American.
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