Diabetes, Heart and Cardiovascular Diseases News Chronicle.  Diabetes, Cardiovascular and Heart Diseases
 Article 308
    Published on February 19, 2018


The risk of heart attack mortality death in NBA athletes from Black or African American


Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center, New York, the United States in collaboration with the NBA have found that the physical training program of the NBA was the root problem for the increased heart disease risks after they retire. Even though doctors in the NBA know the development of heart diseases in some players with their training program, they failed in identifying those players who are at high risk of heart diseases.

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Large African American (Black) NBA athletes are at a risk of heart (cardiac) attack, heart diseases and mortality (death).

Researchers found that the intense training of the NBA is causing physical changes in the heart, especially among the physically large player. It is very difficult for doctors to determine whether their hearts are athletic or abnormal. There are no heart health guidelines for NBA athletes. But researchers say these guidelines are not useful to Black NBA athletes as those guidelines were not created with a focus on them.

NBA-affiliated physicians have done a two-year long study. They have collected data related to stress echocardiogram (also called as stress echo or echocardiography stress test) and electrocardiograph (ECG) of 519 NBA players and draft prospects. The average age of the player was 24.8 years and 78.8 percent of the players are from the African American (Black). This information helps physicians in investigating abnormalities in size and shape of the heart and functioning of the heart of each player.

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Researchers found that about 89 percent (or 462) of the athletes are of physiologic and ECG changes due to training. The current heart health guidelines did not account for these abnormal ECG results. They also found likely ECG abnormalities in NBA players aged between 27 and 39 years compared to NBA players aged between 18 and 22 years. Abnormal ECG results were found to be 11.4 percent in African American athletes when compared to 5.3 percent in white athletes even after multiple changes in ECG interpretation.

As the current guidelines were prepared with white athletes in mind, NBA-affiliated physicians were unable to identify a player with heart problems due to the physical training program of NBA.

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Authors say even though all ethnic groups have a common heart health risk factors, there is a small difference in the heart of an African American athlete compared to a white athlete. Authors suggest other criteria for the evaluation of African American or Black athletes for the evaluation of future risk of heart attack, mortality or death. Review of heart health criteria for NBA basketball players is important to prevent false positives in African American (Black) athletes.

Authors also say there is a need to conduct an investigation with a larger cohort of Black or African American athletes in developing guidelines for ECG (normal/abnormal ECG) and for developing diagnostic tests which can help in predicting the risk of heart disease, mortality or death in them.

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The author of the investigation was Dr. Marc P. Waase, MD, Ph.D., electrophysiology fellow at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, the United States. The study was published December 6, 2017, in the JAMA Cardiology. Title of the article was "Electrocardiographic Findings in National Basketball Association Athletes." DOI : dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamacardio.2017.4572

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