Background UEFA requires that all male players of the elite teams undergo cardiovascular screening, which was conducted as a research project in Norway.
Objective To study the prevalence of elevated blood pressure (BP), and test if there were any relation to consequences of hypertension as increased left ventricle (LV) mass or diastolic dysfunction.
Design Cross-sectional study.
Setting Training-camp, La Manga, Spain, 2008.
Participants All football players in the two elite-divisions in Norway were invited, 28 of 30 teams participated. 594 of 636 players finished the study.
Assessment of risk factors Standard BP measurements, high BP is defined >=140/90 mm Hg according to ESC standards. Height and weight were self reported, body mass index (BMI), body surface area and pulse pressure (PP) were calculated.
Main outcome measurements The echocardiographic parameters were indexed LV mass, relative wall thickness (RWT), heart rate (HR), and peak early (E) and late (A) diastolic transmitral velocities. The E/A ratio was calculated as an index for LV diastolic function.
Results Mean age: 25 years (range 18–38), mean BMI: 23.7 kg/m2 (20–29) and mean BP: 122/69 mm Hg. 38 players (6.4%) had hypertension grade 1, and two had hypertension grade 2. There was a significant linear relationship between mean arterial pressure (MAP) and indexed LV mass, HR and PP with regression coefficient 0.26 (95% CI 0.08 to 0.44), 0.20 (95% CI 0.10 to 0.29), and 0.18 (95% CI 0.07 to 0.29), p<0.01. No such correlation was found between RWT, E/A ratio and MAP.
Conclusion Elevated BP was associated with increased PP and HR, indicating increased sympathetic activity. Those with elevated BP had significantly increased indexed LV mass, indicating an early start of end organ damage. Considering that detection of elevated BP at one single occasion in young age may predict manifest hypertension later in life, our data support BP screening of athletes.