Objective A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression were performed on selected studies to investigate the incidence of atrial fibrillation (AF) among athletes compared with non-athlete controls.
Design Meta-analysis with heterogeneity analysis and subsequent meta-regression to model covariates were performed. The mode of exercise (endurance and mixed sports) and age were the a priori determined covariates.
Data sources PubMed, MEDLINE, Science Direct, SPORTDiscus and the Cochrane library were searched.
Eligibility criteria Research articles published after 1990 and before 2 December 2020 were included if they reported the number of AF cases in athletes with non-athlete (physically active or inactive) control groups, were case–control or cohort studies and if data allowed calculation of OR.
Results The risk of developing AF was significantly higher in athletes than in non-athlete controls (OR: 2.46; 95% CI 1.73 to 3.51; p<0.001, Z=4.97). Mode of exercise and risk of AF were moderately correlated (B=0.1259, p=0.0193), with mixed sport conferring a greater risk of AF than endurance sport (B=−0.5476, p=0.0204). Younger (<55 years) athletes were significantly more likely to develop AF compared with older (≥55 years) athletes (B=−0.02293, p<0.001).
Conclusion Athletes have a significantly greater likelihood of developing AF compared with non-athlete controls, with those participating in mixed sport and younger athletes at the greatest risk. Future studies of AF prevalence in athletes according to specific exercise dose parameters, including training and competition history, may aid further in delineating those at risk.
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Twitter @willwillnewman, @JODriscoll9
Contributors WN and JO’D contributed to the conception and design of the study. WN, GP-W, JW, JE, SH, KK, MP, RS and JO’D contributed to the development of the search strategy. WN, JE, SH and JO’D conducted the systematic review. WN, GP-W, JE and JO’D completed the acquisition of data. WN, JE, SH and JO’D performed the data analysis. All authors assisted with the interpretation. WN, GP-W, JE and JO’D were the principal writers of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the drafting and revision of the final article. All authors approved the final submitted version of the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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