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Endurance athletes and A-fib

Greg Welch
My diagnosis with Atrial Fibrillation (AF) has had me researching the subject of endurance athletes with heart conditions.  My friend, Dr. Jon, forwarded me an article called "Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter in athletes" when he heard of my diagnosis.  It reviews a number of studies of the subject and concludes "There is growing evidence that long-term endurance sports participation can result in.......the initiation and maintenance of AF......although the mechanisms explaining the relationship between these conditions remain to be elucidated".

It's not hard to find examples of endurance athletes who have had to deal with heart problems.  Just in Australia, high-achieving triathletes, Greg Welch, Emma Carney, Erin Densham and Chris Legh have all had treatment for serious heart conditions and, in some cases, been forced to cease elite competition.  It can sound scary!

Emma Carney
But they are all a lot younger than me (making it much tougher for them, of course) and maybe they were predisposed genetically to their problems.  Nevertheless, without having any personal knowledge, I doubt that they would change much about their competitive lives, and particularly the intensity of their training.  They achieved great things by maximising their potential through hard and disciplined effort, and I admire them.

Erin Densham
We are all individuals and the medical studies point out correlations, possible explanations and areas for future study with respect to cohorts.  There are no certainties, or even probabilities, that long-term endurance runners will have dangerous heart problems affecting their quality of life.

I would like to see a study that quantifies the enhanced quality of life enjoyed by endurance runners over the course of their careers.  I believe the benefits would far outweigh any costs.