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November 1973

Electrocardiogram of the Athlete: Alterations Simulating Those of Organic Heart Disease

Author Affiliations

San Diego, Calif

From the Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, Calif.

Arch Intern Med. 1973;132(5):763-770. doi:10.1001/archinte.1973.03650110095021

Routine medical evaluations of well-trained endurance athletes frequently disclose electrocardiographic abnormalities suggestive of organic heart disease. First- and second-degree atrioventricular (AV) block, altered ventricular conduction, criteria for atrial enlargement or ventricular hypertrophy, and repolarization abnormalities are commonly found. On the basis of such abnormal tracings, the athlete may be advised to refrain from his customary strenuous exertion, even though the results of physical examination are normal and there is no history suggesting cardiovascular disease. In fact, such athletes are usually quite fit for the activity for which they train so vigorously. The electrocardiographic findings probably reflect the anatomic and electrophysiologic effects of training on the cardiovascular system. It is important for physicians to recognize these changes as normal variants when seen in well-trained athletes.

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