Top athletes may also develop life-threatening cardio vascular abnormalities

A study that involved over 2,000 athletes revealed that even sportspersons who have very high level of fitness and performance might have life-threatening cardiovascular disorders. Each of the athletes taking part in the study is eligible for the winter and summer Olympics.

During the study, the athletes were screened for cardiovascular disorders. The researchers involved in the study were surprised to see that a large share of the participants had cardiovascular conditions; what’s even more shocking is that some cardiovascular disorders detected in the athletes impose serious health risk.

Dr. Paula Emilio Adami, a member of the research group conducting the above mentioned study, said that in spite of their extraordinary achievements and amazing physical performance, Olympic athletes also become victims of cardiovascular abnormalities pretty frequently. Dr. Adami added that those abnormalities may also turn out to be life-threatening conditions.


A total of 2354 elite athletes took part in the study, out of which 1435 were men and 919 were women. The median age of the participants was 27.6 years and they were associated with 15 different winter and 31 different summer sports.

The athletes had to undergo a series of tests between 2002 and 2014. The screening process included a thorough physical checkup, echocardiography and 12-lead and exercise ECG. In addition to all these, the participants were made to undergo 24-hour ECG monitoring; however, this step was carried out selectively only for confirming earlier diagnoses,

Out of the 2354 athletes tested, 171 were diagnosed with cardiovascular abnormalities of some type; and in six of those 171 individuals, the detected cardiovascular abnormality was life-threatening in nature.

The six participants diagnosed with life-threatening cardiovascular conditions got disqualified from the competition. Another 24 for suspended temporarily, but was later allowed to take part in the competition under medical supervision.

The abnormalities the participating athletes were diagnosed with included coronary heart disease and cardiomyopathies. For those who don’t know: sudden cardiac death is often the result of a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Dr Adami said that it’s surprising that in spite of having such serious heart disorders the athletes managed to perform so well at the highest level. Here, it must be mentioned that the abnormalities went unrecognized previously as before taking part in this study the athletes never underwent any thorough extensive health screening.


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  • Three things spring to mind: 1, The one they want us to deduce…that if the athletes have heart problems how much more the general public. And 2, maybe some of the “irregularities” were actually advantageous for the sports they are involved in. Not normal, does not necessarily mean inferior. An enlarged heart can often be a symptom of other problems, but it might also be an advantage pumping blood faster but at a lower pulse. Oh, and, 3: Good grief! Why all the intense scrutiny. What are the chances they are really going to fall over dead while participating in the Olympics? Yes, a hand full of mostly poorly conditioned high school athletes die suddenly from their hearts racing wildly, but that does not mean really well conditioned Olympic level athletes would. Sounds like a way to rob them of what they earned…a qualifying spot. Very sad, it is like they are saying, no you are inferior stock…we will not send you. I wonder how many metals we squandered.

  • Sergai Grinkoff, world champion figure skater dropped dead in the rink in the early 90’s from an undetected heart problem.