The impact of ST elevation on athletic screening

Clin J Sport Med. 2011 Sep;21(5):433-40. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0B013E31822CF105.


Objective: To demonstrate the prevalence and patterns of ST elevation (STE) in ambulatory individuals and athletes and compare the clinical outcomes.

Design: Retrospective cohort study. ST elevation was measured by computer algorithm and defined as ≥0.1 mV at the end of the QRS complex. Elevation was confirmed, and J waves and slurring were coded visually.

Setting: Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University varsity athlete screening evaluation.

Patients: Overall, 45 829 electrocardiograms (ECGs) were obtained from the clinical patient cohort and 658 ECGs from athletes. We excluded inpatients and those with ECG abnormalities, leaving 20 901 outpatients and 641 athletes.

Interventions: Electrocardiogram evaluation and follow-up for vital status.

Main outcome measures: All-cause and cardiovascular mortality and cardiac events.

Results: ST elevation in the anterior and lateral leads was more prevalent in men and in African Americans and inversely related to age and resting heart rate. Athletes had a higher prevalence of early repolarization even when matched for age and gender with nonathletes. ST elevation greater than 0.2 mV (2 mm) was very unusual. ST elevation was not associated with cardiac death in the clinical population or with cardiac events or abnormal test results in the athletes.

Conclusions: Early repolarization is not associated with cardiac death and has patterns that help distinguish it from STE associated with cardiac conditions, such as myocardial ischemia or injury, pericarditis, and the Brugada syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Heart Diseases / ethnology
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Young Adult