Our guide to playing tennis with epilepsy

  • August 31, 2020
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With the US Open tennis tournament expected to return to our screens from 31st August, millions of people will be tuning in to watch the legends of the game fight it out to win the Grand Slam title. If you are inspired to get involved by the US Open tennis, here is everything you need to know about playing the sport when you have epilepsy.

Tennis players with epilepsy

Having epilepsy doesn’t need to be a barrier to playing the game. For example, English tennis player William Renshaw (1861 – 1904) is little-known today, but he was a pioneer of the sport and a 12-time champion at Wimbledon – that makes him like the Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal of his time. Renshaw had epilepsy throughout his life, but it didn’t prevent him from becoming one of the highest achievers in the sport’s history.

There are a number of up and coming US tennis players with epilepsy who are working their way through the rankings too. Gabby Dellacono who plays for Brown University was diagnosed with epilepsy aged 10 but this hasn’t stopped her playing at a competitive level. Another promising tennis player with epilepsy is Lindsey Kayati who plays on the Rutgers University Tennis Team. Kayati started having seizures aged 13 while on court but she has overcome those obstacles and is progressing fast.

Tennis and playing sports with epilepsy

Traditionally, people with epilepsy were discouraged from participating in sports. However, it is increasingly recognized that many types of physical activity can in fact help with seizure management - and with the right precautions there’s no reason you cannot play tennis.

In fact, tennis is regarded as one of the safest options when it comes to playing sports with epilepsy. The International League Against Epilepsy has categorized it as a sport with ‘no significant additional risk’.

As long as you have a seizure management strategy in place and your epilepsy doctor supports your fitness plan, there’s no reason you cannot play tennis.

Safety precautions for playing tennis with epilepsy

If you are interested in tennis or playing sports with epilepsy, here are some simple precautions to take:

  • Drink plenty of fluids: Dehydration is a seizure trigger for some. When playing tennis you will lose a lot of water through sweating, so always have a big bottle of water (or two!) courtside.
  • Take breaks if you feel tired: Seizures can occur from hard physical exertion, so it’s important to take frequent breaks. One benefit of tennis is that the sport allows for many short breaks between games and sets – use these opportunities to take a breather.
  •  Let your tennis partners know about your seizures: Explain to your tennis friend or partner that you sometimes have seizures and let them know what to do in case you have one.

With the US Open Tennis tournament set to return to our screens in August, millions of people will be inspired to start playing this exciting sport. And, with the right seizure management techniques, preparation and agreement from your physician, there’s no reason people with epilepsy can’t pick up a racket and ace the world of tennis!

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