enlarged heart

What is Athletic Heart Syndrome?


Dr. Alykhan Abdulla, BSC, MD, LMCC, CCFPC, DipSportMed CASEM, FCFCP, CTH (ISTM), CCPE, Masters Cert Phys Leader, ICD.D

Assistant Professor University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, Academic Clinical Professor University of Ottawa Faculty of Nursing Medical Director The Kingsway Health Centre, The Kingsway Travel Clinic, The Kingsway Cosmetic Clinic, Beechwood Medical Cosmetic Physio Pharmacy, Editor in Chief/Author Journal of Current Clinical Care SPORTS MEDICINE, Vice Chair Section of General and Family Practice Ontario Medical Association, Board Director Eastern Ontario Regional Lab Association, Bruyere Foundation


Abstract: A common term for an enlarged heart that is associated with repeated strenuous exercise is athletic heart syndrome (AHS). This article reviews AHS, other serious conditions that appear similar to AHS, and how to identify a young athlete at risk for sudden cardiac death.
Key Words: athletic heart syndrome, enlarged heart, strenuous exercise, sudden cardiac death.
The changes in heart structure and function seen in athletic heart syndrome would suggest illness if seen in non-athletes.
When abnormalities in heart structure or function are detected in an athlete, it is important to ensure the abnormalities are indeed due solely to exercise conditioning, and not to a cardiac disorder.
Consider a clinical history of drug abuse, the use of anabolic steroids, recent viral infections and very tall athletes with arachnodactily or an arm span greater than their height.
Clinically suspicious athletes need to go for further testing.
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