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Authors: Zsolt Komka, E. Bosnyák, E. Trájer, A. Protzner, Zs. Major, G. Pavlik, M. Tóth and A. Udvardy

Abstract

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) of athletes usually occurs during warm-up or shortly after training. At this point sympathetic tone is still elevated but oxygen demand does not differ from resting levels. It is supposed not to have a primarily ischemic origin but most likely relates to repolarization abnormalities which can be associated with intracellular cAMP level caused by increased sympathetic tone. The mediators of sympathetic nervous system are the catecholamines (epinephrin, norepinephrin). Measuring QT-dispersion can show the repolarization's inhomogeneity. 27 elite soccer players, 28 triathletes and 29 non-trained control person took part in our study. It was recorded cardiac ultrasound, an ECG and taken blood before and after exercise. We found significantly higher QT-dispersion and catecholamines in soccer players compared to the triathletes and the controls. However the soccer players did not show larger athlete's heart than the triathletes. After exercise the increased repolarization inhomogeneity persisted in soccer players, but in triathletes it decreased. Increased sympathetic tone in athletes can enhance arrhythmia propensity. Our data may explain why the soccer players die of sudden cardiac death most commonly in Europe.

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Authors: Zs Major, R Kirschner, N Medvegy, K Kiss, GM Török, G Pavlik, G Simonyi, Zs Komka and M Medvegy

Background

Early repolarization in the anterior ECG leads (ERV2–4) is considered to be a sign of right ventricular (RV) remodeling, but its etiology and importance are unclear.

Methods

A total of 243 top-level endurance-trained athletes (ETA; 183 men and 60 women, weekly training hours: 15–20) and 120 leisure-time athletes (LTA; 71 men and 49 women, weekly training hours: 5–6) were investigated. The ERV2–4 sign was evaluated concerning type of sport, gender, transthoracic echocardiographic parameters, and ECG changes, which can indicate elevated RV systolic pressure [left atrium enlargement (LAE), right atrium enlargement (RAE), RV conduction defect (RVcd)].

Results

Stroke volume and left ventricular mass were higher in ETAs vs. LTAs in both genders (p < 0.01). Prevalence of the ERV2–4 sign was significantly higher in men than in women [p = 0.000, odds ratio (OR) = 36.4] and in ETAs than in LTAs (p = 0.000). The highest ERV2–4 prevalence appeared in the most highly trained triathlonists and canoe and kayak paddlers (OR = 13.8 and 5.2, respectively). Within the ETA group, the post-exercise LAE, RAE, and RVcd changes developed more frequently in cases with than without ERV2–4 (LAE: men: p < 0.05, females: p < 0.005; RAE: men: p < 0.05, females: p < 0.005; RVcd: N.S.). These post-exercise appearing LAE, RAE, and RVcd are associated with the ERV2–4 sign (OR = 4.0, 3.7, and 3.8, respectively).

Conclusions

According to these results, ERV2–4 develops mainly in male ETAs due to long-lasting and repeated endurance training. The ERV2–4 sign indicates RV’s adaptation to maintain higher compensatory pulmonary pressure and flow during exercise but its danger regarding malignant arrhythmias is unclear.

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