HH4A Heart Health for Athletes is inspired by my own heart health and sport health journey.
I am an ICD athlete.
I was diagnosed in 2005, when I was 35 years old, with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Essentially, this is a thickening in my heart muscle wall that makes me prone to irregular and very fast heartbeats (in my case, ventricular tachycardia), which put me at risk of cardiac arrest. At the time, cardiologists advised me to stop running altogether. I declined to follow their advice, as running had been an integral part of my life for as long as I could remember. However, I was forced to rethink the entire experience of running and recalibrate my concepts of ‘racing’ versus ‘participation’.
I eventually underwent surgery for an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) in 2011. This is a small device sitting inside my chest wall with a wire running through a vein into my heart, set to give me an electric shock to restart my heart should I ever go into cardiac arrest. Sounds terribly dramatic. Actually, I am mostly fit and well with relatively few symptoms (and, thankfully, I’ve never arrested!). Although I was at first reluctant to go ahead with the ICD insertion, it turned out to be a really good thing. It gave me the confidence to return to a more vigorous training program. I’ve turned to endurance events (better on the heart rate), taking up triathlon. I now train for IM 70.3 and long course triathlons, including road and trail running.
Photos, from left to right: September, 1981, my first day at Glenhuntly AthleticClub (at the time, Glenhuntly Women’s Amateur Athletic Club). September, 2015, Sunshine Coast Ironman 70.3. February, 2015, Geelong Ironman 70.3.
The practice of sport is a human right.
I am a firm believer in this principle of Olympism (as outlined in the IOC Olympic Charter). I am keen to promote sport participation as being the right of every individual and don’t agree with some of the literature, particularly out of Europe and the United States, which recommends restrictions on sport participation for people like me with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and/or ICDs. I really think it should be up to individuals to decide this, once they are fully informed and can assess the risks for themselves. Much more work is needed in this area.
Reach for the stars.
Confronting our own Sport and Heart Health challenges can be complex and challenging. There is often a myriad of opinions, therapies and research evidence to work through not to mention new discoveries that challenge the status quo on diagnosis and management.
My aim is to provide commentary that will encourage enquiry and help you to consider your own limitations while taking charge of your strengths – to inform you and inspire you to “Reach for the stars!” on your own terms, whether you be a recreational or professional athlete, young or old.
Getting our heads – and our hearts – around Sport Health issues as they confront us during our lifetimes is integral to sustaining long-term sport participation which, in turn, empowers us to live enriching and fulfilling lives.
By presenting commentary on current and emerging issues in Heart Health and Sport Health, I would like Heart Health for Athletes to be a useful resource for you while you are navigating your own sport journeys.
I am a health and medical writer based in Melbourne, Australia, and also an active sportsperson in triathlon, athletics and recreational cycling. I am President of Glenhuntly Athletic Club and a member of Oscar’s Triathlon Team (OTT) and Sandringham Yacht Club. I regularly participate in long course triathlons, fun runs and bike rides.
Originally undertaking significant studies in Medicine at the University of Melbourne, I changed course directions to ultimately graduate with an Honours degree (1st class) in Arts (Languages) from Monash University, specialising in Linguistics and Japanese. I have since established a diverse background in higher education, medical education, government strategy and policy, project management, stakeholder engagement, writing consultancy and small business.
See my LinkedIn profile here.
For more information about me and my medical and health writing business please visit my website at KMG Communications.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and cannot provide you with medical advice – please consult a health professional or medical doctor for any advice or concerns you may have about your own or someone else’s health and wellbeing.