An athlete who routinely trains for more than an hour a day may develop athletic heart syndrome, also known as athlete’s heart. Athletes will often not realise that they have the condition. The syndrome is characterised by an enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), thickening of the muscular wall of the heart (cardiac hypertrophy), a slower than normal resting heartbeat (bradycardia) and sometimes irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).
While these heart-related signs would signal a serious medical problem in the average person, athlete’s heart is generally regarded as a good thing and considered harmless. The changes in the athlete’s heart reflect the body’s ability to adapt to regular exercise.
However, athletes should not assume it is okay to experience heart stress and that their “heart problems” might simply be sport-related … seek medical advice if you experience chest pain, irregular heartbeats or episodes of fainting. A medical examination and relevant investigations should rule out heart problems that are serious.
Here is a link to a useful overview of athletic heart syndrome.
Posted by Kara Gilbert @ KMG Communications.