When you think of a sport where a serious amount of players suffer from health problems, the first thing that probably comes to mind is football, right? Well, you wouldn’t be wrong, but it turns out that basketball can result in some pretty serious health conditions as well, as about 15% of NBA players have been discovered to suffer from heart problems.
Since years-long training for a sport at an elite level can make an athlete’s electrocardiogram (EKG) appear different from that of your typical person, a special criteria has been developed from NBA players to determine whether or not their EKG results are due to that training or specific heart problems. The NBA requires players to undergo heart tests prior to the beginning of every season, which includes an EKG as well as an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create visual representations of athletes’ hearts in order to allow doctors to see their shapes and sizes and how blood flows through them.
In a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists used this criteria to analyze heart data from 519 NBA players and discovered that 81 of them had abnormal results that could not completely be explained by intense athletic training. The study analyzed athletes who played in the NBA during the 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons, 80% of whom were Black with the remaining 20% being mostly White. The average age of participants was 25. While the 2017 study showed heart irregularities in 81 NBA players, the numbers were actually higher in previous years: 131 using the 2012 guidelines and 108 using the 2014 guidelines.
The authors of the study also indicated that NBA players were more likely to suffer from heart problems than other athletes, although this may be due to their average age being higher. In addition, there are limitations to the study: the underlying causes of the heart ailments are unknown, there is no complete set of physiological data noting things like blood pressure, and the study cannot necessarily be used to generalize athletes in other sports. Regardless, this is certainly something for players, coaches, and doctors to be aware of and can be a useful step in finding ways to prevent future players from developing similar heart problems.
[via The Verge]