Improved early detection of cardiac disorders in athletes

The current standard method for the early detection of cardiac disorders in athletes is outdated, according to cardiologists at Amsterdam UMC. In order to prevent future accidents on the sports field, as was the case with Ajax player Abdelhak Nouri two years ago, researchers at Amsterdam UMC have started a study to improve cardiac screenings. Together with NOC*NSF, the Papendal Sports Medical Centre and Amsterdam Movement Sciences (Tenure Grant 2018), the cardiologists will screen a group of almost eight hundred potential Olympic athletes with various new techniques. ‘Within a few years time, we will better know how the heart of an athlete works and what it looks like’ says cardiologist Harald Jørstad from Amsterdam UMC and Amsterdam Movement Sciences. Dr. Jørstad will coordinate the study from Amsterdam UMC, which is scheduled to start later this year.

Outdated protocol
The so-called Lausanne protocol (named after the place where it was written at the headquarters of the Olympic Committee in Lausanne) is a standard method for early detection of heart problems, consisting of a fixed combination of questionnaires, physical exercise and a heart clip. Now, fifteen years later, the cardiologists at Amsterdam UMC think the time is ripe for improvement. Despite the fact that various techniques have been added in recent years to detect disorders more efficiently and quickly, the protocol has never been fundamentally changed. With this new initiative, the first step has been taken ‘The ECG does not provide enough information’, says Jørstad. ‘Other tests we had at the time were either incredibly difficult or extremely expensive. Now you can make echoes anywhere. MRIs can be faster and more accurate. We can test the genes and we can do invasive tests. What we see is the better the technique gets, the better we understand how the heart works.’