Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Abnormal EKG Risky for Some Athletes

In Rare Cases, Abnormal Electrocardiogram May Be Early Warning Sign of Structural Heart Problem
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 9, 2008 -- Abnormal results from electrocardiograms (EKGs) may be an early warning sign of rare heart problems in some athletes.

Italian researchers report that news in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Most athletes have strong, healthy hearts. But some have genetic, structural heart problems that can be fatal, even though the athlete has no symptoms.

Doctors from Italy's National Olympic Committee have been studying athletes' EKGs, searching for clues about those heart problems, which are called cardiomyopathies.

More than 12,000 young, elite Italian athletes got EKGs between 1979 and 2001. They were followed for nine years, on average.

During that time, 81 athletes had abnormal EKGs with no signs of structural heart problems at the time of the EKG. Only five of them developed cardiomyopathies, including one who died while training despite orders not to train or compete because of heart risks.

For comparison, no cases of cardiomyopathy developed among 229 top-notch Italian athletes who had normal EKGs during the study period.

Athletes with abnormal EKGs may need "greater diagnostic scrutiny and continued clinical surveillance," write Antonio Pelliccio, MD, and colleagues.

They add that a normal EKG "can be regarded as reasonably reliable evidence to exclude the presence of potentially lethal cardiac disease and can serve as a source of reassurance to young athletes."

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure