A new study by the Cleveland Clinic has found that retired pro football players are five times more likely to experience an irregular heartbeat known as Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib.
Researchers studied 460 retired NFL players and compared them to a control group of more than 900 men.
Dermot Phelan, director of sports cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said 80% of the players studied showed no symptoms.
“We know that athletes tend to have a slightly slower heart rate even in a normal rhythm. So when they were in Atrial Fibrillation, we saw that the heart rate was slower, and many of them were completely asymptomatic. And yet despite that, many of them should have been taking anti-coagulation (medication) to reduce the risk of stroke,” Phelan said.
AFib is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart failure and even death.
Researchers noted that this study involved a small group of players. They hope it leads to longer term studies on a wider group of athletes.