The effect of sport on computerized electrocardiogram measurements in college athletes

Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2012 Feb;19(1):126-38. doi: 10.1177/1741826710392669. Epub 2011 Feb 21.


Background: Broad criteria for abnormal electrocardiogram (ECG) findings, requiring additional testing, have been recommended for preparticipation exams (PPE) of athletes. As these criteria have not considered the sport in which athletes participate, we examined the effect of sports on the computerized ECG measurements obtained in college athletes.

Methods: During the Stanford 2007 PPE, computerized 12-lead ECGs (Schiller AG) were obtained in 641 athletes (350 male/291 female, age 19.5 ± 2 years). Athletes were engaged in 22 different sports and were grouped into 16 categories: baseball/softball, basketball, crew, crosscountry, fencing, field events, football linemen, football other positions, golf, gymnastics, racquet sports, sailing, track/field, volleyball, water sports, and wrestling. The analysis focused on ECG leads V2, aVF and V5 which provide a three-dimensional representation of the heart's electrical activity. As marked ECG differences exist between males and females, the data are presented by gender.

Results: In males, ANOVA analysis yielded significant ECG differences between sports for heart rate, QRS duration, QTc, J-amplitude in V2 and V5, spatial vector length (SVL) of the P wave, SVL R wave, and SVL T wave, and RS(sum) (p < 0.05). In females ECG differences between sports were found for heart rate, QRS duration, QRS axis and SVL T wave (p < 0.05). Poor correlations were found between body dimensions and ECG measurements (r < 0.50).

Conclusions: Significant ECG changes exist between college athletes participating in different sports, and these differences were more apparent in males than females. Therefore, sport-specific ECG criteria for abnormal ECG findings should be developed to obtain a more useful approach to ECG screening in athletes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Athletes*
  • California
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Sports*
  • Students*
  • Young Adult