Background: Sudden death in athletes can occur during sport activities and is presumably related to ventricular arrhythmias. There are no guidelines concerning athletes who develop ventricular arrhythmias during an exercise test. It is unclear whether they should be allowed to continue with their competitive activity or not.
Objectives: To investigate the long-term follow-up of athletes with ventricular arrhythmias during an exercise test.
Methods: From a database of 56,462 athletes we identified 192 athletes, less than 35 years old, who had ventricular arrhythmias during an exercise test. Ninety athletes had > or = 3 ventricular premature beats (group A) and 102 athletes had ventricular couplets or non-sustained ventricular tachycardia during an exercise test (group B). A control group of 92 athletes without ventricular arrhythmias was randomly selected from the database (group C).
Results: All athletes, except one who died from a dilated cardiomyopathy, were alive during a follow-up period of 70 +/- 25 months. An abnormal echocardiogram was obtained in seven athletes from group A (10%), four from group B (5%), and one from group C (3%) (not significant). An abnormal echocardiogram was more likely to be present in competitive athletes (P = 0.001) and in female athletes (P = 0.01).
Conclusions: Our results showed that ventricular arrhythmias during exercise are more commonly associated with cardiovascular abnormalities in young competitive athletes and in female athletes. When present, they necessitate a thorough investigation and follow-up.