Pre-participation screenings frequently miss occult cardiovascular conditions in apparently healthy male middle-aged first-time marathon runners

Inarota Laily, Tom G H Wiggers, Niels van Steijn, Nick Bijsterveld, Adrianus J Bakermans, Martijn Froeling, Sandra van den Berg-Faay, Ferdinand H de Haan, Rianne H A C M de Bruin-Bon, S Matthijs Boekholdt, R Nils Planken, Evert Verhagen, Harald T Jorstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic


INTRODUCTION: The optimal pre-participation screening strategy to identify athletes at risk for exercise-induced cardiovascular events is unknown. We therefore aimed to compare the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and European Society of Cardiology (ESC) pre-participation screening strategies against extensive cardiovascular evaluations in identifying high-risk individuals among 35-50-year-old apparently healthy men.

METHODS: We applied ACSM and ESC pre-participation screenings to 25 men participating in a study on first-time marathon running. We compared screening outcomes against medical history, physical examination, electrocardiography, blood tests, echocardiography, cardiopulmonary exercise testing, and magnetic resonance imaging.

RESULTS: ACSM screening classified all participants as 'medical clearance not necessary'. ESC screening classified two participants as 'high-risk'. Extensive cardiovascular evaluations revealed ≥1 minor abnormality and/or cardiovascular condition in 17 participants, including three subjects with mitral regurgitation and one with a small atrial septal defect. Eleven participants had dyslipidaemia, six had hypertension, and two had premature atherosclerosis. Ultimately, three (12%) subjects had a serious cardiovascular condition warranting sports restrictions: aortic aneurysm, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), and myocardial fibrosis post-myocarditis. Of these three participants, only one had been identified as 'high-risk' by the ESC screening (for dyslipidaemia, not HCM) and none by the ACSM screening.

CONCLUSION: Numerous occult cardiovascular conditions are missed when applying current ACSM/ESC screening strategies to apparently healthy middle-aged men engaging in their first high-intensity endurance sports event.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Feb 2024

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