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Abnormal heart rates in cross country skiers

Fri, Feb  12, 2010 - By Ken Dawson

Having been a competitive skier for over 30 years I found this interesting article relating to abnormal/elevated heart rates among cross country skiers. From time to time over the last several years I would have an abnormal heart rate increase that would shoot up to 220 bpm and basically cause my body to shut-down.   The condition is not a structural heart issue and in most cases goes away the next day.  My cardiologist says my heart is in great shape and there is no life threatening issue.   His recommendation is to back off when it occurs and continue to monitor some of the stimulants that might bring it on like caffeine, cold medicines etc.  

The reason I wanted to share this with everyone is other skiers have had similar episodes.  All of us experience similar symptoms and this article is just another piece of the puzzle that might explain the reason and offer potential solution. So if you have an episode similar to ours, know that you are not alone and there are ways to be able to minimize the occurrence.   

In my case I will know during warm-ups if I am good to go, so if you see me skiing the VASA with Karen, either I am celebrating valentine’s day with her or I can’t play with the big dogs today.


High Prevalence of Atrial Fibrillation Found Among Cross-Country Skiers:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 10, 2010) — Next month, in the Norwegian town of Rena, 12,000 elite cross-country skiers will line up for this year's Birkebeiner ski marathon, an annual endurance race which will take them through 54 kilometres of snow-covered countryside to the winter sports resort of Lillehammer. The race has been run almost every year since 1932, and in 1976 almost 150 participants were invited to take part in a long-term study designed to discover the extent of latent heart disease in these elite cross-country skiers.

Now, after some 30 years, the results of the follow-up study have been published and suggest that long-distance competition skiers -- as well as other endurance athletes -- are at an unusually high risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormality of the heart's beating rhythm.

Results showed that participants in the study are at a high risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) without known structural heart disease or other known causes (a condition termed "lone" AF). A prevalence of 12.8% found among the skiers who completed the study's investigations in 1976, 1981 and 2004-2006, when echocardiographic (ECG) and heart rate tests were performed at rest and at exercise. In the general population studies have found the prevalence of AF to be as low as 0.5%, with rates only rising to around 15% in men over the age of 75.

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