Researchers at the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, Australia, have found that playing video games can trigger cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats) in children whose predisposition may not have been recognised. They discovered a rare and definite pattern in children who lose consciousness while playing these games.
“Video games may represent a serious risk to some children with arrhythmic conditions; they might be lethal in patients with predisposing, but often previously unrecognised arrhythmic conditions,” said Claire M. Lawley, lead study author. “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.”
What is cardiac arrhythmia?
Cardiac arrhythmia refers to a cardiac condition characterised by irregular heartbeats. During this, the electrical impulses don’t work properly, due to which the heart can’t pump blood effectively. When this occurs, the significant organs of our body, including the brain and lungs, may get damaged. Interestingly, video games have been found to trigger the condition in children and lead to cardiac arrest in some.
Finding how video games cause cardiac arrhythmia
The researchers surveyed to identify the number of children who had a sudden loss of consciousness. They did this by launching an outreach campaign operating globally. In most cases, they found multiplayer war video games were the most common triggers. Further, they discovered that some children died due to cardiac arrest. The children continue to be at a risk as an outcome of subsequent diagnosis of various cardiac rhythm disorders. The common causes were cardiac problems such as catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT) and congenital long QT syndrome (LQTS) types 1 and 2.
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There was a high ubiquity of genetic variations, about 63 percent among patients, which draws significant conclusions for their families. In a few cases, the child who lost consciousness while playing games resulted in the diagnosis of several family members with serious heart problems. They concluded that emotional imbalance due to adrenal stimulation caused this issue. During cardiac incidents, most patients were in excited states due to loss or winning games or were indulged in conflicts with companions. Hence, it could be said that electronic games are not always a safe alternative to playing competitive sports.
“We already know that some children have heart conditions that can put them at risk when playing competitive sports, but we were shocked to discover that some patients were having life-threatening blackouts during video gaming,” added Christian Turner, the study co-author. “Video gaming was something I previously thought would be an alternative ‘safe activity.’ This is a really important discovery. We need to ensure everyone knows how important it is to get checked out when someone has had a blacking out episode in these circumstances.”
As a solution, the researchers suggested that appropriate training and counselling should be provided to children and their families to explain the risks of intense video gaming. Further, programs focussing on identifying players’ risk for arrhythmias should be conducted for considering their participation in eSports.
The research was published in the journal Heart Rhythm.