Surprisingly high number of NBA players have heart abnormalities – The Verge

A surprisingly high number of elite basketball players have heart abnormalities, according to researchers who analyzed data from hundreds of National Basketball Association players. They found that at least 15 percent of players may have heart problems.

Training for a sport at an elite level changes your heart, so a chart of the heart’s electrical activity, called an electrocardiogram (or EKG) for an athlete will be different than one for a non-athlete. As a result, it can be hard to tell if someone’s EKG looks different because of training or because there’s an underlying disorder that might be dangerous. In light of heart-related NBA deaths, coaches and scientists are keen to develop specific criteria that can make heart disease easier to diagnose to help protect athletes. For a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists analyzed heart data from 519 NBA athletes and found that at least 81 had abnormal results that couldn’t always be explained by athletic training.

The NBA requires each athlete to have their heart tested each year before the season begins. The evaluation includes an EKG, and a more sophisticated procedure called an echocardiogram. Echocardiograms use sound waves to create a visual image of the heart so doctors can see the size and shape and how blood flows through it.

Today’s study used test results for athletes who had played during the 2013 to 2015 seasons. Of these, 80 percent were black and most of the remaining players were white, and the average age was 25. The scientists analyzed the data using three specific sports-related criteria that are supposed to separate out what’s normal for athletes versus what’s not. Though 81 athletes have abnormalities using 2017 criteria, the numbers were higher using criteria from previous years: 108 using 2014 guidelines, and

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