Background: Genetic variants associated with cardiomyopathies (CMPs) are prevalent in the general population. In young athletes, CMPs account for roughly a quarter of sudden cardiac death, with further unexplained clustering in specific sports. Consequently, most CMPs form a contraindication for competitive sports. We hypothesized that genetic variants might (paradoxically) improve physical performance early in life while impairing cardiac function later in life. Methods: Systematic PubMed search was done to investigate whether genetic variants in genes associated with CMPs could be related to beneficial performance phenotypes. Summary: In a limited number of studies (n = 6), 2,860 individuals/subjects with genetic variants were able to outperform those without said variants, as measured by running speed (∼38 m/min in heterozygous [HET] mice, n = 6, vs. ∼32 m/min in wild type [WT] mice, n = 7, p = 0.004) and distance (966 ± 169 km HET mice vs. 561 ± 144 km WT mice, p = 0.0035, n = 10), elite athlete status in endurance athletes (n = 1,672, p = 1.43 × 10−8), maximal oxygen uptake in elite athletes (absolute difference not provided, n = 32, p = 0.005), maximal oxygen uptake in unrelated individuals (n = 473, p = 0.0025), personal records in highly trained marathon runners (2:26:28 ± 0:06:23 min HET, n = 32, vs. 2:28:53 ± 0:05:50 min without polymorphism, n = 108, p = 0.020), and peripheral muscle force contraction in patients following a cardiac rehabilitation program (absolute values not provided, n = 260). Key Message: Beneficial effects in genetic variants associated with CMPs could hypothetically play a role in the selection of young athletes, consequently explaining the prevalence of such genetic variants in athletes and the general population.
- Physical performance
- Systematic review