For athletes, heart health is one of the many benefits of maintaining the active lifestyle that they do; however, having a heart with structural changes to cope with athletic demands can sometimes come with complications. Symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, passing out, and irregular heart beats are all signs to go see a doctor.

Another issue with the hearts of athletes is genetic or irregular heart conditions. Heart conditions are often undiagnosed and can lead to serious life threatening consequences like cardiac arrest while playing a sport. One of the most common heart conditions involved with causes of sudden death in athletes is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)—the enlargement of the heart muscle to a dangerous size—which is commonly undiagnosed.

The key to keeping your athlete safe is detection. To help determine if your athlete has a heart that could potentially be at risk, be aware of familial health history and learn what symptoms to look for. If you know your athlete could be at risk, consult a doctor and arrange to have further testing done. If they don’t seem at risk but you notice your athlete begin to exhibit something similar to any of the symptoms, err on the side of caution and go see a doctor. From then on the doctor or specialist can determine what the next best course of action is. This could range from testing, monitoring athletic activity, or refraining from athletics altogether. Sometimes the best way to protect the heart is to stop athletic activity and let it return to normal size. This gives it a chance to work properly without all the stress of performing under athletic conditions.

Overall, athletes having heart conditions are nothing to panic about—just be aware. Just like you are aware of your athletes’ injuries, you need to be aware of the potential injury their hearts could have. The heart is just like any other muscle in the body that can become pulled or strained. Many people have heart conditions and can live normal lives, but being an athlete puts more stress on the irregularity of the heart, which can cause more serious issues. Remember being informed is crucial and to take precaution through prevention, detection, and diagnosis. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

For more information, check out the following links:

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Athletic heart syndrome