Exercise and competitive sports in patients with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator

Eur Heart J. 2014 Nov 21;35(44):3097-102. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehu130. Epub 2014 Apr 8.


Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) prevent sudden arrhythmic death in patients with different arrhythmogenic cardiac diseases. Because intense physical activity may trigger ventricular arrhythmias and may favour inappropriate shock delivery that impacts quality of life, current international recommendations only give clearance for moderate leisure-time physical activity to patients with an ICD. Hence, athletes are deemed non-eligible to compete with their ICD. The rationale for the current restriction from competitive sports is discussed in this review, as well as new insights that may alter these recommendations for certain sports participants in the foreseeable future. This review provides guidance for the choice of a durable lead and device system, careful programming tailored to the characteristics of the patient's physiological and pathological heart rhythms, instalment of preventive bradycardic medication, and guided rehabilitation with psychological counselling, allowing a maximum of benefit and a minimum of harm for physically active ICD patients.

Keywords: Athlete; Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator; Sports; Ventricular arrhythmia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / therapy*
  • Contraindications
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Defibrillators, Implantable*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Patient Selection
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Quality of Life
  • Sports for Persons with Disabilities / physiology*