Cardiac arrhythmias in the athlete: the evolving role of electrophysiology

Curr Sports Med Rep. 2002 Apr;1(2):75-85. doi: 10.1249/00149619-200204000-00004.


Arrhythmia management has undergone a revolution in the past decade. The diagnosis and treatment of arrhythmias in the athlete can be complicated by the need to compete and exercise. Some arrhythmias may be benign and asymptomatic, but others may be life threatening. Sinus bradyarrhythmias are common and even expected in athletes; these are rarely a cause for concern. Heart block is unusual and merits a thorough work-up. Atrial fibrillation may be more common in the athlete, and supraventricular tachycardias other than atrial fibrillation warrant consideration of radiofrequency ablation for cure. 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 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 those with exertional syncope merit a complete evaluation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmia, Sinus / diagnosis
  • Arrhythmia, Sinus / therapy
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnosis*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / therapy*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / therapy
  • Atrial Flutter / diagnosis
  • Atrial Flutter / therapy
  • Bradycardia / diagnosis
  • Bradycardia / therapy
  • Electrophysiology / methods*
  • Heart Block / diagnosis
  • Heart Block / therapy
  • Humans
  • Sports Medicine / methods*
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / diagnosis
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / therapy
  • Ventricular Premature Complexes / diagnosis
  • Ventricular Premature Complexes / therapy