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Cardiovascular evaluation of middle-aged individuals engaged in high-intensity sport activities: implications for workload, yield and economic costs

Abstract

Background The European Association of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR) recommends cardiovascular evaluation of middle-aged individuals engaged in sport activities. However, very few data exist concerning the impact of such position stand. We assessed the implications on workload, yield and economic costs of this preventive strategy.

Methods Individuals aged 35–65 years engaged in high-intensity sports were examined following the EACPR protocol. Athletes with abnormal findings or considered at high-cardiovascular risk underwent additional examinations. The costs of the overall evaluation until diagnosis were calculated according to Swiss medical rates.

Results 785 athletes (73% males, 46.8±7.3 years) were enrolled over a 13-month period. Among them, 14.3% required additional examinations: 5.1% because of abnormal ECG, 4.7% due to physical examination, 4.1% because of high-cardiovascular risk and 1.6% due to medical history. A new cardiovascular abnormality was established in 2.8% of athletes, severe hypercholesterolaemia in 1% and type 2 diabetes in 0.1%. Three (0.4%) athletes were considered ineligible for high-intensity sports, all of them discovered through an abnormal ECG. No athlete was diagnosed with significant coronary artery disease on the basis of a high-risk profile or an exercise ECG. The cost was US$199 per athlete and US$5052 per new finding.

Conclusions Cardiovascular evaluation of middle-aged athletes detected a new cardiovascular abnormality in about 3% of participants and a high-cardiovascular risk profile in about 4%. Some of these warranted exclusion of the athlete from high-intensity sport. The overall evaluation seems to be feasible at reasonable costs.

  • Cardiology prevention
  • Cardiology
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