A new study has found that the incidence of atrial fibrillation (AF) in almost 7,000 young elite athletes is low. The finding contrasts with previous research on older athletes which suggests a possible increased risk of AF compared to age-matched controls.
Researchers examined data on a cohort of 6,813 Spanish athletes with a mean age of 22 years, who underwent at least one cardiologic evaluation. All of the athletes were part of national teams and competing in major international events.
During the 20 year study period, just 21 athletes had paroxysmal (n=18), persistent (n=1) or long-standing persistent (n=2) AF.
In multivariate analysis, increasing values of age (odds ratio [OR] 1.07; 95% CI 1.00-1.14), years of competition (OR 1.14; 95% CI 1.07-1.22), and left atrial anteroposterior diameter (OR 1.21; 95% CI 1.10-1.32) were associated with higher AF risk (all P<.001>
While the incidence of AF was low among these young adults, the authors said potential contributors, particularly atrial remodelling, should be considered when interpreting the findings of this review.
The findings are published in JAMA Cardiology.