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The heart of the matter: cardiac assessment in professional footballers
  1. C Speers,
  2. A Seth,
  3. K Patel,
  4. M Gillett,
  5. D Rakhit
  1. Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, UK


Aim Sudden cardiac death is the leading medical cause of death during exercise.1 Our objective was to retrospectively analyse the routine cardiac assessment of professional footballers to aid physician management and improve player safety.

Methods Footballers from five professional clubs between March 2012 and October 2014 were included (n=265). All were performed in line with the recommendations of the Football Association Cardiology Committee, incorporating clinical examination, 12-lead ECG, echocardiography and health questionnaire.2 Data was retrospectively collected, inspected and analysed using Excel spreadsheets. Findings were classified as ‘normal’ or ‘not normal’, and not normal assessments were further broken down into ‘clear-cut pathology’ (pathology with widely accepted guidance on management) or ‘grey screen’.

Results Footballers were aged 13 to 37 years, with 69% aged over 18 and 31% under. The majority of the review population was White European (66%). Of the review population 11% had ‘not normal’ assessments, of these assessments 83% were considered grey screens (by Consultant Cardiologist) requiring further investigation or surveillance. Overall clear-cut pathology was identified in 2%.

Conclusions A high proportion of the players (9%) had grey screens. The majority of these were due to ECG or structural abnormalities, which are clinically challenging to differentiate from physiological adaptation of the athletic heart and potentially fatal conditions. The extent to which these findings put the athlete at risk of a life threatening cardiac event is un-?quantified. Team physician’s need to be aware of managing the on-going risk with these patients and ensure suitable ?follow up and assessment on a regular basis to mitigate this.

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