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

Laily I; Wiggers TGH; van Steijn N; Bijsterveld N; Bakermans AJ; Froeling M; van den Berg-Faay S; de Haan FH; de Bruin-Bon RHACM; Boekholdt SM; Planken RN; Verhagen E;  Jorstad HT;

Cardiology [Cardiology] 2024 Feb 07.
Date of Electronic Publication: 2024 Feb 07.

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.