St. Francis

St. Francis Sports Medicine Newsletter | February 2010

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2/3, 2/10, 2/17, 2/24
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Derby Dames
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2/6, 2/13
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2/6, 2/13
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January 30, 2010
D1 Sports Training, Greenville

Are your kids up for a challenge? St. Francis Sports Medicine, D1 Sports Training and
the Fellowship of
Christian Athletes are
proud to present the
4th Annual St. Francis
Sports Performance

The event is for
7th-12th grade male
and female students
and tests their speed,
strength and agility
for a chance to earn
scholarships, trophies
& medals, and prizes.
Learn more about
the Challenge >>



Thank you for your continued support of St. Francis Sports Medicine. We are looking forward to an exciting new year with much to offer. If you would like to hear more about Sports Medicine from one of our experts, please email Rodney Dender. And, remember, we're always available on our 24/7 "hurtline" at 864-675-HURT.

Can Exercise Cause
Heart Attacks?

Stephen Keiser, MD  |  Premier Sports Medicine

By now we have all heard the sad and scary news: Gaines Adams, a standout defensive football player at Clemson who was picked fourth overall in the 2007 NFL draft and played for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears, was found dead in his parents' home after suffering a fatal cardiac arrest. How could it be possible? A 26-year-old athlete in the best shape of his life, dying from a heart attack?

It seems that every few years we hear of an athlete who dies suddenly during exercise. Last year, three runners died competing in a half marathon in Detroit, and just last week a Southern Indiana basketball player suffered the same fate as Adams.

When you hear these stories, it can make you wonder: could exercise cause heart attacks? Would I be better off not subjecting my heart to exercise?
From a physician's perspective, the short answer is no. In most cases of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes, the cause is a genetic condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which causes the heart muscle to thicken abnormally, making it harder for blood to leave the heart. While some with HCM experience chest pain, heart palpitations or fainting during exertion, most have no symptoms.

Often, HCM is diagnosed because of a thorough physical exam that includes a family history. HCM also can be detected with a test called an echocardiogram. While not usually required by sports physicals, athletes with chest pain, palpitations or episodes of fainting, or those with a family history of sudden cardiac death or unexplained death should be screened with an echocardiogram to rule out HCM.  

For the vast majority of people, though, regular cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart muscle and actually decreases the likelihood of suffering a heart attack. A recent study assessed the risk of death of more 3 million marathon runners and concluded that the risk of suffering cardiac arrest during a marathon was only 0.8 in 100,000. To put this in perspective, the probability of dying as a result of a lightning strike is 1 in 79,746.

Now compare those odds to otherwise healthy people who rarely exercise. A study from the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the risk of sudden cardiac death is two and a half times higher in sedentary individuals than in those who routinely exercise. These sudden deaths are usually not caused by HCM, but rather a heart muscle weakened by lack of physical activity, smoking, uncontrolled high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Before you embark on a new exercise routine, it is a good idea to consult a Primary Care or Sports Medicine physician, particularly if you are 45 or older or have any chronic medical conditions. Your doctor can discuss your overall health with you and let you know if there are any types of exercise you should steer clear of.

But if you're otherwise healthy and have gotten your physician's blessing, keep up your cardiovascular exercise knowing that you're improving your odds of good heart health just by getting out there.

Stephen Keiser, MD
Stephen Keiser, MD practices with Premier Family Medicine, and is a primary care physician who specializes in Sports Medicine. Read his bio >>