High prevalence of atrial fibrillation in long-term endurance cross-country skiers: echocardiographic findings and possible predictors--a 28-30 years follow-up study

Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2010 Feb;17(1):100-5. doi: 10.1097/HJR.0b013e32833226be.


Background: Lone atrial fibrillation (LAF) seems to be more common in endurance-trained male athletes than in men in the general population. The reason for this has not been found.

Aim: To determine the prevalence of LAF in long-term endurance cross-country skiers and to examine possible predictors.

Methods: Of 149 healthy, long-term trained cross-country skiers from three different age groups who were invited, 122 and 117 participated in the studies in 1976 and 1981, respectively. At follow-up in 2004-2006, 78 men participated, with 33 in age group I (54-62 years), 37 in group II (72-80 years) and eight in group III (87-92 years), whereas 37 individuals had died and seven could not be tracked. The examination programme applied in 1976, 1981 and 2004-2006 consisted of an electrocardiographic monitoring during rest and exercise and a maximal exercise test. Echocardiography was performed in 2004-2006.

Results: A high prevalence (12.8%) of LAF was found. The only predictor from both 1976 and 1981 associated with LAF was a long PQ time (r=0.38, P=0.001 and r=0.27, P=0.02, respectively), whereas bradycardia was another predictor from 1981 (r=0.29, P=0.012). At follow-up, left atrial enlargement was a marker associated with LAF (P<0.001).

Conclusion: Long PQ time, bradycardia and left atrial enlargement seem to be important risk factors for LAF among long-term endurance cross-country skiers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnostic imaging
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / etiology
  • Bradycardia / complications
  • Bradycardia / epidemiology
  • Echocardiography, Doppler*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Exercise Test
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Atria / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Skiing*
  • Time Factors