Can a sport change your heart?

Can a sport change your heart?

As football season approaches, make sure your player’s heart health is in check.

Findings from research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session found that football players may have a higher risk of developing heart rhythm disorders, such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), later in life.

In the study of over 460 former NFL players and 925 non-athletes with similar demographics, researchers found that footballers were more than five times more likely to have heart rhythm disorders compared to their counterparts.

Specifically, researchers found a significant enlargement of the aortic root in players who had completed even just one season of collegiate football, meaning actual structure of the heart changed. Larger linemen were found to be particularly at risk.

Most of the players partaking in the study were unaware of their existing condition until the study was conducted. For many, symptoms of the problem were masked by the players’ low resting heart rates.

Dr. Senthil Sivalingam, an electrophysiologist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., says, “Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder among adults and is projected to rise over the next few decades.” He adds that otherwise healthy adults can present without any symptoms and can potentially have an increased risk of stroke and heart failure.

So what can you do?

Researchers, along with Dr. Sivalingam, emphasize the importance of routine checkups for athletes, especially football players, starting at a young age. Don’t just assume living a healthy life fully prevents you from experiencing cardiac problems.

Find out your risk for heart disease by taking our simple and easy Heart Risk Assessment.

Heart disease is the #1 killer worldwide, and some form of cardiovascular disease affects more than one in every three adult Americans. Join Team Advocate by clicking here and support the mission of building healthier lives, free of heart diseases and stroke.

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About the Author

Lauryn Oleson
Lauryn Oleson

Lauryn Oleson is a public affairs intern at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. She studies public relations with a focus in psychology at Illinois State University. As a Bloomington native, Lauryn grew to love health and wellness by learning from her mom, Carolyn, who is a registered nurse at BroMenn. Lauryn enjoys playing sports, spending time with friends and volunteering for Young Hearts for Life. She hopes to continue her career in PR and health care in the future.