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Early Repolarization, Left Ventricular Diastolic Function, and Left Atrial Size in Professional Soccer Players

      Recent data have suggested a relation among long-term endurance sport practice, left atrial remodeling, and atrial fibrillation. We investigated the influence of an increased vagal tone, represented by the early repolarization (ER) pattern, on diastolic function and left atrial size in professional soccer players. Fifty-four consecutive athletes underwent electrocardiography, echocardiography, and exercise testing as part of their preparticipation screening. Athletes were divided into 2 groups according to presence or absence of an ER pattern, defined as a ST-segment elevation at the J-point (STE) ≥0.1 mm in 2 leads. For linear comparisons average STE was calculated. Mean age was 24 ± 4 years. Twenty-five athletes (46%) showed an ER pattern. Athletes with an ER pattern had a significant lower heart rate (54 ± 9 vs 62 ± 11 beats/min, p = 0.024), an increased E/e′ ratio (6.1 ± 1.2 vs 5.1 ± 1.0, p = 0.002), and larger volumes of the left atrium (25.6 ± 7.3 vs 21.8 ± 5.0 ml/m2, p = 0.031) compared to athletes without an ER pattern. There were no significant differences concerning maximum workload, left ventricular dimensions, and systolic function. Univariate regression analysis revealed significant correlations among age, STE, and left atrial volume. In a stepwise multivariate regression analysis age, STE and e′ contributed independently to left atrial size (r = 0.659, p <0.001). In conclusion, athletes with an ER pattern had an increased E/e′ ratio, reflecting a higher left atrial filling pressure, contributing to left atrial remodeling over time.
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