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sports and spare time

Going out and having fun is important to us all – so does epilepsy have to get in the way? Epilepsy is a very individual condition; how it affects you can be quite different from how it affects someone else. 

Knowing how your epilepsy affects you can help you to make your own decisions about what you can and can't do.

Can I still play football and go swimming?

Most people with epilepsy can do most sports, but it does depend on how your epilepsy affects you. Playing team sports like football can be fine but with all sports that involve other people, there is a risk of injuries if you collide with someone.

Some sports and leisure activities may be risky if you still have seizures, particularly swimming and other water sports, or being at heights, but safety measures can reduce the risks in most cases.

Be realistic about what you want to do, what the possible risks could be for you and how you can reduce those risks. For example, have a friend with you who know what to do if you have a seizure.

Telling other people about your epilepsy, like your team coach or a lifeguard at the pool, means they can help you if you have a seizure.

TV and computer games

Most people with epilepsy can watch TV and play computer games without any problem. However, some people have photosensitive epilepsy which means their seizures can be triggered (set off) by flashing or flickering lights or by seeing moving patterns like stripes or checks. This is not common - it affects up to 5% (1 in 20) of people with epilepsy. This means that 95% of people with epilepsy do not have seizures that are set off by flashing lights or patterns. You may be tested for photosensitive epilepsy when you have an EEG - a test that can help with diagnosing epilepsy.

If you do have photosensitive epilepsy, some kinds of flashing images, lights or patterns on computer games could trigger seizures for you. This will depend on what the images are, how close you are to the screen, how dark the room is and whether you have any triggers for seizures that are specific to you. If you're not sure whether you have photosensitive epilepsy, ask your GP or specialist.

Computer games that have flashing images may carry a warning on the packaging. Modern TVs and computer screens have a very high flicker frequency and are not generally likely in themselves to be a trigger for people with photosensitive epilepsy.

What about theme parks, festivals or gigs?

Rides at theme parks, noise, loud music, crowds and late nights can raise your excitement or stress levels, or can be tiring. For some people these situations coulds trigger a seizure. For other people they won't. Learning if your epilepsy has any triggers like these can help you make decisions about what you can do.

Know your triggers

Download our free smartphone app containing a seizure diary to help you monitor your triggers. Available for iPhone and Android phones.

Taken from our Your epilepsy - now and next leaflet. Order this leaflet from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer.

This information was reviewed by Professor Matthias Koepp, Professor of Neurology, University College London and Epilepsy Society. Epilepsy Society is also grateful to the young people who helped develop this information.