Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsm.2009.057885
  • Original article

Atrial fibrillation in endurance-trained athletes

  1. P D Thompson1
  1. 1Division of Cardiology, Hartford Hospital, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Hartford, CT, USA
  2. 2Clinica de Medicina do Exercico, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  1. Correspondence to Dr P D Thompson, Cardiology, Hartford Hospital, 81 Seymour Street, Hartford, CT 06102, USA; pthomps{at}
  • Accepted 11 June 2009
  • Published Online First 13 July 2009


Background Endurance exercise training produces multiple cardiac adaptations including changes in electrophysiological function that may make endurance-trained athletes more vulnerable to atrial fibrillation (AF). This possible association is not recognised by many practising cardiologists and sports physicians. Consequently, we performed a literature review to examine the relationship between atrial fibrillation and endurance exercise training among athletes. PubMed was searched from January 1960 through December 2008 to identify articles examining the relationship between endurance exercise training and AF.

Results Evidence suggests that athletes are at increased risk for development of AF. Possible factors increasing AF in this population include increased parasympathetic tone, reduced sympathetic tone, increased atrial size and increased inflammation.

Discussion Suggested management of AF in athletes should follow similar principles to those used to manage AF in the general population.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and Peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

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