Do you have any info on training clients with epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain in which sufferers experience seizures or fits repeatedly. The seizures often occur without warning and are the result of neurons in the brain not communicating properly. The school of thought for people with epilepsy used to be to avoid exercise for fear that a seizure could occur at any moment. However, it is now known that regular exercise actually reduces the occurrence of epileptic seizures, and it is very unlikely for a seizure to happen while working out.
The reasons behind exercise reducing epileptic seizures are numerous. First, it lowers and helps control stress, which is a main cause of seizures. Second, the heavy breathing resulting from exercise prevents the build up of carbon dioxide in the blood. Neurotransmitters (chemicals that cause the body to feel good) are released during exercise and may play a role in calming the brain. Since people have to concentrate when playing a sport, the brain is less likely to trigger a seizure. Improved fitness levels and increased self esteem resulting from physical activity can also reduce the risk of seizures.
As always, a doctor’s guidelines should be followed when training an epileptic client. In addition, other safety precautions should be taken. Make sure medication is taken as prescribed and that an adequate amount of it is available. If a sport is involved, make others aware of the client’s condition. Appropriate protective gear should be worn if required by the specific activity such as helmets, life jackets and knee pads. Contact sports such as football, boxing and skiing should be avoided as well as high altitude events such as rock climbing. Any other known seizure triggers (such as lack of sleep and high stress) should be avoided. A medical alert bracelet should be worn at all times by the client.
It is also important to realize that some drugs taken by epileptic patients have side effects that can affect physical performance. Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) can trigger fatigue and coordination and vision problems. Exercise can also affect the levels of AEDs in the blood, so epileptic exercisers should be monitored by a doctor or specialist.
Most regular training exercises can be performed as long as certain guidelines are followed. There are ways to help your client avoid triggering an epileptic seizure. Make sure plenty of water is consumed before, during and after exercise. Don’t push to the point of physical exhaustion. Slow down if the client is feeling hot or tired. Schedule plenty of rest between workouts (at least two days per week). Monitor proper nutrition intake closely. Avoid workouts if adequate sleep does not occur. Take necessary precautions to avoid head injuries. Know where to get help if you need it: a doctor, neurologist or the Epilepsy Assist Helpline (300-852-853).