Because of rare but high-profile instances of cardiac death among professional athletes there is intense interest in identifying test markers of abnormal heart function that may put players at risk.
‘Increased left ventricular relative wall thickness was associated with abnormal ECG findings in basketball players.’
The National Basketball Association (NBA) mandates annual cardiac screening to ensure the safety of its players. Athletes are known to have changes in their hearts and ECG patterns appropriate to their intense athletic training, so athlete-specific criteria have been developed to distinguish normal from abnormal ECG findings. This study investigates how those criteria perform in NBA athletes.
NBA athletes (n = 404) who participated in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons, and participants in the 2014 and 2015 NBA predraft combines (n = 115) were recruited for the study.
ECG findings for NBA athletes using three athlete-specific ECG criteria, with corresponding echocardiogram findings.
Compared to other athletes, abnormal ECG findings were found in:
- 81 NBA athletes (15.6 percent) using 2017 criteria
- 108 NBA athletes (20.8 percent) using 2014 criteria
- 131 NBA athletes (25.2 percent) using 2012 criteria
Increased left ventricular relative wall thickness (RWT) was associated with abnormal ECG findings. Abnormal T-wave inversions (a type of abnormal ECG finding) were present in 32 athletes (6.2 percent), and was associated with smaller left ventricular cavity size and increased RWT.