Shocking Study on Electronic Games and Arrhythmias

young boy with headset holding a controller playing his video game on the tv

In what could only be described as shocking research, a recent study of 22 children has found that electronic video games can cause dangerous ventricular arrhythmias in kids, with those having congenital and/or proarrhythmic heart issues being the most at risk. Of those 22 kids, six experienced cardiac arrests, and four died. Ten kids had been previously diagnosed with catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, four had long QT syndrome, and two underwent prior congenital heart surgery. These children seemed to have the highest risk of syncope – unexplained fainting – or even death after playing certain electronic games.

We have known that athletic kids with congenital heart problems can develop arrhythmias, some life-threatening, due to the exertion on the heart. But this was the first review to delve into electronic games, especially those not requiring physical activity. One would assume that playing a game would not have a similar effect on the heart as vigorous physical exertion, but that seems not to be the case.

While many electronic games require physical exertion, like dance, sports, or training games, this arrhythmia phenomenon was also found in sedentary games. War games, in particular, stimulated a reaction (adrenergic stimulation) and, therefore, a higher heart rate. This would also be typified by popular first-person shooter games and others with significant intensity.

A further and relatively concerning question raised by this study is how effective antiarrhythmic treatment is for athletes versus gamers. While there is not enough data to back up this assertion, the small sample showed there could be more trouble controlling arrhythmia in gamers than in young athletes – could this be because of physical health in athletes versus more sedentary gamers? More research is necessary.

Our Take

This is a study that should be paid mind by parents whose children have pro-arrhythmic and congenital heart defects. However, any parent should look out for fainting or other concerns during or after gaming, as a small but significant number of kids in the study did not have a known prior diagnosis. Does this study mean your child is at substantial risk of arrhythmia because they play video games? No, it seems as though this is a small risk, even for the most susceptible kids – hence a small sample size.

While we certainly don’t have enough data – we need more research on this phenomenon – we wouldn’t expect this to affect many children. However, this is fundamental research for parents, who may notice their child acting strangely or even passing out during or after playing video games. If you have seen this before, it is essential to stop video games and get to an electrophysiologist as soon as possible. If you see your child having an emergency, always go to the ER or call 911.

As for treating these arrhythmias, we have several possible options at our disposal. Medications work in about 50% of patients. Procedural solutions like cardiac catheter ablation may also be appropriate, and there is no defined minimum age for these treatments.

Once again, while this research focuses on a very small number of children, it may help some families understand what would have been a baffling concern with their children playing video games. It can and should be incorporated into medical and lifestyle discussions for children suffering from heart problems.

And, of course, we always recommend that you visit a qualified electrophysiologist specializing in heart, pacing, and rhythm conditions to ensure your child receives the most advanced and appropriate heart care.


  1. Lawley, C.M., et al. (2022) Life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia and sudden death during electronic gaming: An international case series and systematic review. Heart Rhythm.