International criteria for electrocardiographic interpretation in athletes: Consensus statement

Br J Sports Med. 2017 May;51(9):704-731. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-097331. Epub 2017 Mar 3.


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the leading cause of mortality in athletes during sport. A variety of mostly hereditary, structural or electrical cardiac disorders are associated with SCD in young athletes, the majority of which can be identified or suggested by abnormalities on a resting 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG). Whether used for diagnostic or screening purposes, physicians responsible for the cardiovascular care of athletes should be knowledgeable and competent in ECG interpretation in athletes. However, in most countries a shortage of physician expertise limits wider application of the ECG in the care of the athlete. A critical need exists for physician education in modern ECG interpretation that distinguishes normal physiological adaptations in athletes from distinctly abnormal findings suggestive of underlying pathology. Since the original 2010 European Society of Cardiology recommendations for ECG interpretation in athletes, ECG standards have evolved quickly, advanced by a growing body of scientific data and investigations that both examine proposed criteria sets and establish new evidence to guide refinements. On 26-27 February 2015, an international group of experts in sports cardiology, inherited cardiac disease, and sports medicine convened in Seattle, Washington (USA), to update contemporary standards for ECG interpretation in athletes. The objective of the meeting was to define and revise ECG interpretation standards based on new and emerging research and to develop a clear guide to the proper evaluation of ECG abnormalities in athletes. This statement represents an international consensus for ECG interpretation in athletes and provides expert opinion-based recommendations linking specific ECG abnormalities and the secondary evaluation for conditions associated with SCD.

Keywords: Athlete; Cardiovascular; Sudden cardiac arrest; Sudden cardiac death.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Child
  • Consensus
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Electrocardiography / standards*
  • Heart Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Sports Medicine / standards*
  • Washington
  • Young Adult