Newswise — NEW YORK, NY (December 7, 2017) – Building on research that established the first large-scale normative cardiac data set for basketball players (and athletes of similar size as elite basketball players), cardiologists at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center compared electrocardiographic findings among National Basketball Association (NBA) athletes with other published athlete groups in a new study. Results demonstrated that the criteria used to identify athletes at risk for exercise-triggered sudden cardiac death, known as the International Criteria, find a higher rate of false-positive results among NBA athletes. The results indicate a need for additional sport-specific guidelines to differentiate expected cardiac changes from abnormalities.
The findings were published on Dec. 6 in JAMA Cardiology.
“Elite basketball players, like other elite athletes, are known to develop heart muscle changes over time related to intensive athletic training,” said Dr. David J. Engel, a sports cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the study’s senior author. “But, there has not previously been a study that specifically analyzes ECG changes in this athlete group."
In the current study, researchers analyzed the pre-season electrocardiograms (ECGs) of 519 NBA players from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons to test the accuracy of the ECG guidelines (International Criteria) in elite basketball players. Among the sampled players, ECG results as identified by the International Criteria as abnormal were more common in older subjects and in those who demonstrated increased thickening of the left ventricular wall relative to their overall heart size. Athlete body size and race/ethnicity were not associated with the prevalence of abnormal ECGs.
“This data may help us continue to enhance player health and safety by distinguishing expected changes in a basketball player’s heart from underlying cardiac conditions,” said Dr. Engel. “The current ECG criteria cannot encapsulate how the wide variation in physiologic demands of different sports, and the varied baseline characteristics of athletes engaged in different sports, create varied changes in athletes' ECGs. We still have more work to do to determine if more specific criteria for evaluating ECG data in different sports is needed.”
The authors report no financial or other conflicts of interest. This work was supported by the National Basketball Association (NBA) as part of a medical services agreement between the NBA and Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
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Columbia University Irving Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit cumc.columbia.edu or columbiadoctors.org.
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