Atrial Fibrillation in Athletes

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia in humans. AF in people under 50 years of age occurs in less than 1% of the population, but its incidence increases with age, affecting up to 10% of those over 80 years of age.

However, it has been known for some years that the regular practice of sport has an influence on the development of AF. In fact, its occurrence is more frequent in endurance athletes who are highly trained and who have been performing very intense and tiring exercises for years. Moreover, between the ages of 40 and 50, AF is more frequent in this patient profile than in people of the same age who have not performed these levels of exercise.

Causes of atrial fibrillation

There are several causes, among which the following stand out

  • Continuous sport generates fibrosis in the atria (as premature aging).
  • Elevated parasympathetic tone at rest produces bradycardia (less than 60 beats per minute).

As in the general population, the focus that usually triggers it is in the pulmonary veins.

Treatment of atrial fibrillation

The treatment options for AF in athletes are:

  • Reduce the practice of sport: the problem is that most athletes are unwilling to do so. In addition, even if the degree of training is reduced, it is often not possible to improve the pathology once it has already begun.
  • Drugs: in many cases they are not a good option, as they produce bradycardia and can reduce sports performance.
  • Electrical isolation of the pulmonary veins: it is performed with radiofrequency or cryoballoon. It is the best option in many cases, especially in those patients who want to continue practicing sports and/or have symptomatic crises.
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More information on the web page of Dr. Ernesto Diaz Infante