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Most Athletes Who Die Suddenly had NO Symptoms or Family History of Heart Disease!

In recent years, genetic testing has become increasingly accessible, and it offers a new way to prevent sudden cardiac death in athletes. Recently, the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology published recommendations on how to use gene testing to prevent sudden cardiac death and enable safe exercise. The authors of the paper say that sportspeople should be counselled on the potential outcomes of genetic testing prior to taking the test, as it could mean exclusion from certain activities or restricted play. They also say that athletes should be made aware of the potential risks and benefits of genetic testing before making the decision to undergo testing. By providing this information, athletes can make an informed decision about whether or not to undergo genetic testing.

In most cases, clinical evaluation will dictate the need for preventive therapy such as a defibrillator and the advice on exercise and participation in competitive sports. Dr. Papadakis explained: “Even if a genetic abnormality is found, recommendations on treatment and return to play usually depend on how severe the disease is clinically. Is it causing symptoms such as fainting? Is the heart excessively weak or thick? Can we see many irregularities of the heart rhythm (arrhythmias) and do they get worse during exercise? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions then play is likely to be curtailed in some way.”

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This means, in practice, that everyone with a risk factor or risk factors of Heart Disease will not necessarily be advised against athletics, but that many people could be at risk for developing heart problems without even realizing it. Consequently, it is important for everyone to be aware of their family history of heart disease and to monitor their own health closely. With early detection and treatment, you can help reduce your risk of developing a serious heart condition.

Sudden cardiac death is a tragic event that can happen to anyone, but it is especially devastating when it strikes an athlete in the prime of their life. While the vast majority of sudden cardiac deaths are caused by underlying heart conditions, there are still many cases where the cause is unknown. This is why it is so important for athletes to undergo comprehensive cardiac evaluations, so that any potential risks can be identified and addressed. In some cases, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, genetic testing may also be recommended. While the results of these tests may not change the management plan in most cases, they can help to provide peace of mind for athletes and their families. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that athletes are able to participate in the activities they love in a safe and healthy way.

While genetic testing can be a valuable tool for predicting and managing disease, it is important to use this information wisely. In the case of long QT syndrome, for example, different subtypes can have different implications for treatment. As such, it is important to work with a qualified healthcare professional to ensure that the information from a genetic test is properly interpreted and used to inform decisions about care. Otherwise, there is a risk of making choices that may not be in the best interest of the patient. With the increasing availability of genetic testing, it is becoming more important than ever to use this information responsibly.

While genetic testing can be a valuable tool for diagnosing and treating illness, there is still much unknown about the implications of such testing. In the case of arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ARVC), genetic testing may be the only way to diagnose the condition. However, it is also important to be aware that having the gene for ARVC does not necessarily mean that an individual will develop the condition. It is possible to live a healthy life with the ARVC gene without ever experiencing any symptoms. However, for those who do wish to participate in high intensity or competitive sports, it is recommended that they abstain from such activities. This is because exercise can trigger the onset of ARVC symptoms and lead to a potentially life-threatening arrhythmia. While genetic testing can be a valuable tool, it is important to remember that it is only one piece of information to consider when making decisions about personal health.

The scientific statement was prepared by the Sports Cardiology and Exercise Section of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology, the European Heart Rhythm Association, the ESC Working group on myocardial and pericardial diseases, the ESC Council on Cardiovascular Genomics, the European Society of Human Genetics and the Association for European Paediatric and Congenital Cardiology. 

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation