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Heart Institute Research Reveals Risks for Athletes

     You might think that highly trained athletes would be the least likely to be at risk for sudden cardiac death, but research conducted at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute shows that may not be the case. And to some degree, race can influence the likelihood of cardiac abnormalities.

       You might think that highly trained athletes would be the least likely to be at risk for sudden cardiac death, but research conducted at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute shows that may not be the case. And to some degree, race can influence the likelihood of cardiac abnormalities.

        The research, led by Anthony Magalski, M.D., Cardiovascular Consultants, and published in the June 10 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, revealed that electrocardiogram (ECG) abnormalities were present in 25 percent of all football players screened. Those abnormalities were two-fold more common in black than white, highly trained American football players, with race an independent determinant of abnormal ECG pattern.

       Significant associations between player position and abnormal ECGs also were identified in the research. Abnormal ECGs were most common in wide receivers, defensive backs, and running backs, and least common in quarterbacks and place kickers.

       The research was conducted in a group of 1,959 male collegiate football players participating in the National Football League (NFL) Invitational Camp from 2000 to 2005. The camp, also known as the scouting combine, includes the collection and evaluation of players’ medical information, including medical history, physical examination, and an ECG.  Players with distinctly abnormal ECGs were given an echocardiogram. Incorporation of the ECG into pre-participation screening programs in the United States is a hotly debated controversy, said Dr. Magalski.

        According to Dr. Magalski, physical training can cause changes to the size, shape and function of the heart, collectively known as ‘athlete’s heart.’  In competitive athletes, it is important to distinguish such normal adaptive changes from heart diseases.  Mass pre-participation screening can identify or raise the suspicion of cardiovascular abnormalities known to cause sudden cardiac death in sports participants. Sudden cardiac death is caused by an electrical malfunction of the heart usually as a result of previously unsuspected heart problems that might potentially be detected by an ECG or echocardiogram.

         On the basis of ECG findings alone, black athletes appear to have more abnormalities than white athletes. Many findings turn out to be a “false-positive” — or of no medical significance. ButFree Articles, some findings may be serious cardiac conditions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Dr. James O'Keefe, MD, FACC is Director of Preventive Cardiology at the Mid America Heart Institute, and Professor of Medicine at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He is actively involved with patient care and clinical research, has published over 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and is the lead author of several books including, The Forever Young Diet & Lifestyle.



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