Nearly one in 100 children is born with a congenital heart defect (CHD), but no case is exactly alike. Learn how to help your preteen balance his or her athletic ambitions with the limitations of a CHD.
Because a heart defect refers to any malformation of the heart’s structures, CHDs can range from mild and unnoticeable to severe and symptomatic. One of the most common types of CHD is a ventricular septal defect (VSD), a hole in the wall between the heart’s left and right ventricles. In many cases, a small hole doesn’t require treatment and may correct itself as your child ages.
Even if your child’s CHD is mild, living with limitations can make him or her feel left out. Follow these tips to help your child cope with a CHD:
- See a specialist. If your child hasn’t visited a pediatric cardiologist recently, make an appointment to find out if your child’s CHD is still a limiting factor. The physician will review the progress of your child’s CHD and determine which sports are safe.
- Find a sport that fits. Most children with a CHD should avoid contact and high-impact sports, but other sports—such as baseball, tennis and golf—may not pose a risk.
- Discover other ways to win. Sports aren’t the only activities that provide the sense of satisfaction that comes from competition. Encourage your child to pursue other competitive activities, such as spelling bees, talent shows or musical competitions.
- Fight fears with facts. You may have read news stories about children with CHDs who died suddenly while out on the playing field. While these stories may be true, CHDs rarely cause sudden death. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that most children with mild CHDs may fully and safely participate in sports. By sharing these and other important facts about CHDs, you can help your child make the most of his or her condition.
If your child has a CHD, The Children’s Heart Center at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent can help. To learn more, visit peytonmanning.stvincent.org and select “Cardiology” under “Pediatric Specialties.”
Reviewed by Simon Abraham, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon, Children’s Heart Center at St.Vincent.