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Czech study reveals heart defects in top hockey, rugby players

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Prague, Feb 7 (CTK) – A study of 98 professional rugby and hockey players aged 18 to 37 revealed a congenital heart or metabolic defect in a number of them, experts from the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) in Prague told a press conference yesterday.
IKEM preventative cardiology department’s head doctor Vera Adamkova said the rather high number of health problems among professional players who are under medical supervision took her by surprise.
Echocardiography revealed a congenital defect of the aortic valve in about 10 percent of the players, a defect of the conduction system of the heart, which needs to be checked and means certain restraints for people, in 13 percent, and a serious metabolic defect in 10 percent who were not aware of it until then.
Professional players with a congenital defect of the aortic valve may need its replacement in their 30s.
The findings were incompatible with professional sport in several cases, Adamkova said.
“We cannot order them anything, but if they do not obey us, the consequences may be fatal for them,” she said.
IKEM Cardiology Centre Jan Pirk said young players in team sports tend not to finish the treatment of common diseases such as viral infections for the sake of the team. “Their serious health condition, in extreme cases death, may be caused not only by congenital defects of the circulatory system but for example by an inflammation of the heart muscle,” Pirk said.
The study was carried out in order to prevent sudden deaths of players and its costs were covered by a sponsor.
“This screening cannot be covered from the obligatory health insurance because the players are young and healthy people. A grant cannot be used either because grants require results and we cannot guarantee that another study would prove so many pathologies,” Adamkova said.
IKEM experts plan to negotiate about possible cooperation with the Czech sport association since the study revealed that the issue is very serious.
Pirk said players should undergo screenings for heart defects in their clubs. If any problem is revealed, the club doctor should send the player to cardiologists, he said.

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