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Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2010 Aug;3(4):305-11. doi: 10.1161/CIRCEP.110.945824. Epub 2010 May 28.

J wave, QRS slurring, and ST elevation in athletes with cardiac arrest in the absence of heart disease: marker of risk or innocent bystander?

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Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology Center, IRCCS Policlinico San Donato, Via Morandi 30, San Donato Milanese, Milan, Italy.



QRS-ST changes in the inferior and lateral ECG leads are frequently observed in athletes. Recent studies have suggested a potential arrhythmogenic significance of these findings in the general population. The aim of our study was to investigate whether QRS-ST changes are markers of cardiac arrest (CA) of unexplained cause or sudden death in athletes.


In 21 athletes (mean age, 27 years; 5 women) with cardiac arrest or sudden death, the ECG recorded before or immediately after the clinical event was compared with the ECG of 365 healthy athletes eligible for competitive sport activity. We measured the height of the J wave and ST elevation and searched for the presence of QRS slurring in the terminal portion of QRS. QRS slurring in any lead was present in 28.6% of cases and in 7.6% of control athletes (P=0.006). A J wave and/or QRS slurring without ST elevation in the inferior (II, III, and aVF) and lateral leads (V(4) to V(6)) were more frequently recorded in cases than in control athletes (28.6% versus 7.9%, P=0.007). Among those with cardiac arrest, arrhythmia recurrences did not differ between the subgroups with and without J wave or QRS slurring during a median 36-month follow-up of sport discontinuation.


J wave and/or QRS slurring was found more frequently among athletes with cardiac arrest/sudden death than in control athletes. Nevertheless, the presence of this ECG pattern appears not to confer a higher risk for recurrent malignant ventricular arrhythmias.

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