Performance of the BMJ learning training modules for ECG interpretation in athletes

Heart. 2018 Dec;104(24):2051-2057. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2018-313066. Epub 2018 Jul 4.


To assess the accuracy of interpreting the athlete's ECG both pre and post a series of online training modules among a range of healthcare professionals. 10 512 healthcare professionals from 138 different nations commenced the online course. These were primarily doctors (43%), nurses (18.4%) and other healthcare professionals (3.9%). The users came from 102 different specialities, with General Practice/Family Medicine (24.5%), Cardiology (10.6%), Emergency Medicine (8.7%) and Sports Medicine (6.6%) predominating. Among the 2023 users who completed both the pre-course and post-course test, there was an overall improvement of 15.3% (95% CI 13.9% to 16.6%; p<0.001). 930 completed all four other modules, and these users fared significantly better (18.7% increase; 95% CI 17.3 to 20.0) than those completing no additional modules (11.7% increase; 95% CI 3.3 to 17.7, p=0.036). Demographic analysis showed that while the starting pre-test scores varied significantly between profession/specialty groups (57.8%-82.6%), post-test scores were largely consistent (80.8%-84.6%). Although users showed the most improvement when interpreting primary electrical diseases (12.4% increase), it was also an area of notable weakness compared with the modules of normal training-related findings and cardiomyopathies. With the evolving criteria for ECG interpretation eliciting ever improving levels of specificity and sensitivity in the detection of conditions associated with sudden cardiac death among athletes, training is required to ensure the infrastructure and personnel is in place to uphold these standards. The BMJ Learning course presented is a valuable first step and demonstrates that such an online tool can be effective in aiding ECG interpretation among healthcare professionals globally.

Keywords: ECG/electrocardiogram; Ehealth/telemedicine/mobile health; competency evaluation; educational goals and objectives.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Cardiomyopathies / diagnosis*
  • Electrocardiography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Sports Medicine / education*