What is different about an NBA player’s heart?

What is different about an NBA player’s heart?

LeBron James, Derrick Rose and other basketball stars have big hearts when it comes to donating to charity. Researchers say these elite athletes may also have larger than normal heart muscles due to their athletic activity.

Physicians at Columbia University Medical Center recently investigated the cardiac structure of NBA players in an attempt to better understand the cardiac remodeling (or change in size, shape, structure) of this group of athletes.

According to their study, published by JAMA Cardiology, the incidence of sports-related sudden cardiac death is higher in the United States and is highest among basketball players. Dr. David Engel and his team reviewed the preseason echocardiograms of 526 NBA players to try and learn possible causes.

They found that left ventricular (LV) cavity sizes in NBA players were larger than in normal adults, but that LV size was proportional to body size. The average height of those in the analysis was 6 feet, 7 inches. They also found a modest degree of LV hypertrophy (enlargement) and that aortic root diameters were similar to other elite athletes.

“Athletes’ hearts undergo physiologic remodeling to accommodate the extra work load and volume requirements,” says Dr. Dory Jarzabkowski, a cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Occasionally, the heart thickens as well, if the athletic workload requires strength. This is different from pathological cardiac conditions, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can cause sudden cardiac death.”

According to study authors, a better understanding of the actual cardiac structure of basketball players will improve the resources at-hand for physicians treating players of all ages and could prevent cardiac emergencies.

Do you know your risk for heart disease? Take Advocate Heart Institute’s online heart risk assessment. If you are at high risk, see an Advocate cardiologist within 24 hours.

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.