Professional cyclists hide their heart arrhythmias
I came across an article that was published at CyclingTips a couple of years ago, '"I thought I was going to die" Will Walker retires from pro cycling'. It provides very good insight into the issues surrounding Athlete's Heart.
The personal account of former Australian pro cyclist, Will Walker, contains invaluable information on the symptoms to be aware of when you are training long and hard. His story highlights the importance to recognise and respond to warning signs concerning your body's adaption to training and competition when you know you have an heart issue. It is also very interesting to read about his strategies for managing his sometimes unpredictable heart rate during training (e.g., by coughing to reset his rhythm). Will acknowledges the importance of rest, realising after his collapse in the middle of a race that he was probably tired and not properly recovered from jet lag but still determined to push himself even when he "knew things weren't right", culminating in him collapsing off the bike.
What is interesting is that he reports that there are a number of athletes in the professional peloton who suffer from heart arrhythmias but are reluctant to reveal their condition to the teams and the team doctors. At the time this story was published, Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute and William Walker had partnered with the Melbourne Cycling League to support awareness and raise funds for cardiac research to explore conditions like athlete's heart: "What are we doing about it?"
I agree that greater understanding of this cardiac condition and also general arrhythmias in athletes, including the social and psychological aspects that confront athletes diagnosed with heart problems, is needed to improve our current risk assessments and informed decision-making processes. It is good to see that the Baker IDI is researching this agenda.
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