Background Regular physical activity promotes the cardiovascular fitness and the physical and psychological health. However, exercise can acutely increase the cardiovascular risk in athletes with congenital and acquired heart disease. In Italy, pre-participation cardiovascular screening to obtain eligibility is mandatory for both agonistic and non-agonistic sports, whereas in the United States it is not requested.
Objective In this study, we aimed at investigating the clinical characteristics of subjects with congenital heart diseases who requested the judgment of eligibility to sport practice at the Sport Medicine Center, University of Florence.
Participants Over the period 2010–2016 approximately 3000 athletes aged 6–50 year-old per year underwent eligibility visits at our Center. We found 227 patients with Congenital Heart Disease.
Interventions The eligibility visits included an accurate familiar and personal history and physical examination, basal ECG interpretation, Stress Test with treadmill or cycle-ergometer and basal echocardiography. The stress echocardiography can be especially helpful in athletes with cardiovascular disease, evaluating directly the effect of physical effort on heart by ultrasound.
Main Outcome Measurements We considered age and sex, the presence of cardiovascular risk factors or familiarity for cardiovascular, the type of congenital disease, the type of sport and the ECG/echocardiography findings.
Results Over the period 2010–2016 we assessed 227 athletes with congenital heart diseases, most of which were Bicuspid aortic valve (n=94), Ventricular Septal Defect (n=43); Atrial Septal Defect (n=27), Pulmonary Stenosis (n=15), Patent Ductus Arteriosus (n=14). The median age was 23.4 years (M/F=176/51).
Conclusions We found a remarkable amount of patients with congenital heart disease who apply to obtain the judgement of fitness to practice sport. We are evaluating the data and deepening the study to comprehensively assess the demographical and clinical characteristics of these subjects and to evaluate the predictors of eligibility to sport practice in safety.
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