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Is the risk of atrial fibrillation higher in athletes than in the general population? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Jawdat Abdulla, Jens Rokkedal Nielsen
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/europace/eup197 1156-1159 First published online: 24 July 2009


Aims The aim of this study was to examine by a systematic literature review and meta-analysis whether the risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) is higher in athletes compared with not athletes.

Methods and results A comprehensive systematic search was conducted for case–control studies that examined cases of AF or atrial flutter in athletes vs. controls. Extracted data from the eligible studies were meta-analysed using fixed effects model. Six case–control studies were eligible for meta-analysis. A total of 655 athletes and 895 controls were compared. Mean age was 51 ± 9 years and 93% were men. There were 147 (23%) vs. 116 (12.5%) cases of AF among athletes compared with controls. The overall risk of AF was significantly higher in athletes than in controls with odds ratio (95% confidence interval) = 5.29 (3.57–7.85), P = 0.0001, and Z-score = 8.08. For heterogeneity, the calculated χ2 = 2.92, P = 0.633, and I2 = 0% were not significant.

Conclusion The risk of AF is significantly higher in athletes compared with not athletes. However, this finding should be confirmed further in large-scale prospective longitudinal studies.

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Athlete
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