Sports & Activities

Safety With Sports & Activities

Being active and exercising through recreational activities or sports can improve mental, emotional and physical health for everyone, including those living with epilepsy.

Although physical exercise can very rarely trigger seizure activity, for the vast majority of people with epilepsy the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks.

General Exercise and Recreation

Most individuals with epilepsy can safely exercise in a gym and use most exercise equipment. For those who have uncontrolled seizures, a buddy system can go a long way toward preventing harm - especially when using equipment such as treadmills, weights, or even bike riding.

Before you start your exercise, remember the following:

  • When riding a bike, avoid busy streets. Try bike paths or quiet residential streets instead. Don’t forget a helmet!
  • Walking is even easier and doesn’t cost anything. Use the same ideas – avoid busy streets and walk with a buddy.
  • Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Always wear a medic alert bracelet or necklace and carry a medic alert card.
  • Consider utilizing a seizure alert system or GPS tracking devices available on most mobile phones.

Water Sport Safety

Water sports, including swimming, snorkeling, jet-ski riding, windsurfing, and sailing, are risky for people with epilepsy. However, with a few accommodations, they may be safely pursued by some people.

Before you get in the water, remember the following:

  • Always have a buddy with swimming or water sports.
  • At least one person in the activity or observing it should be aware of the possibility of seizures and know basic life-saving techniques.
  • Always wear a high-quality, properly fitted life vest when near the water.
  • Always wear a medic alert bracelet or necklace.

Contact Sports

Contact sports such as football, rugby, basketball, soccer, and ice hockey are generally safe for people with seizures.

Although the chance of head injury, bodily injury, of concussions is common in these sports, people with epilepsy have no greater chance for injury during these sports than people without epilepsy.  Additionally, the chances of serious injury are small compared with the positive effects of team participation. 

Those individuals living with epilepsy who are planning on participating in a contact sport should consider the following:

  • Repeat concussions are a serious problem for all individuals, including those with epilepsy.
  • Consider the type and frequency of seizures when thinking about these sports. What would happen if you had a seizure while playing football, hockey or soccer?
  • Talk to your doctor about your risks and for individual recommendations.
  • Always wear the recommended protective gear for each sport.

Activities to Avoid

People with uncontrolled seizures should avoid dangerous activities which require full concentration at all times, or for which any episode of loss of consciousness may lead to injury and possible death. These may include:

  • Scuba diving
  • Rock climbing
  • Skydiving
  • Hang gliding
  • Mountain climbing
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The Epilepsy Foundation New England is here to serve and assist the epilepsy community. We partner with the Epilepsy Foundation of America to provide access to information, resources, and support for our constituents.