Cardiac arrhythmias in the athlete. Cardiology in review Link, M. S., Homoud, M. K., Wang, P. J., Estes, N. A. 2001; 9 (1): 21-30


Cardiac arrhythmias in the athlete are a frequent cause for concern. Some arrhythmias may be benign and asymptomatic, but others may be life threatening and a sign that serious cardiovascular disease is present. Physicians often are consulted with regard to arrhythmias, or symptoms consistent with arrhythmias, in athletes. Sinus bradyarrhythmias are common and even expected in athletes. These bradyarrhythmias are rarely a cause for concern. Heart block is unusual and merits a thorough workup. Atrial fibrillation may be more common in the athlete. Supraventricular tachycardias other than atrial fibrillation generally warrant consideration of radiofrequency ablation for cure of the tachyarrhythmia. Ventricular arrhythmias in the athlete generally occur in the setting of structural heart disease that is genetically determined (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, anomalous coronary arteries) or acquired (coronary artery disease, myocarditis, idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathies). In these conditions, the arrhythmia generally is life threatening. Ventricular arrhythmias that occur in the athlete without structural heart disease are not thought to be life threatening. Athletes with structural heart disease and syncope and those with exertional syncope merit a complete evaluation.

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