For those of you that keep a close eye on all things sport you might have seen a worrying trend in the last few months - early death in young athletes.

There have been two high profile deaths in athletics over the last month or so. Firstly, 26 year old Rene Herms died of a 'heart related' illness http://www.iaaf.org/aboutiaaf/news/newsid=48890.html. Then only yesterday it was announced that another 26 year old athlete Kamila Skolimowska has also passed away http://www.iaaf.org/aboutiaaf/news/newsid=49374.html. She 'collapsed' which can normally be construed as heart failure.

Cycling fans will have been equally shocked at the recent death of young Belgian pro Frederiek Nolf during the Tour of Qatar http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/cycling/4522524/Belgian-rid..., when the young rider seemed to be full of vitality, talking of 'having a go' on the next stage, calling his folks back home the night before, never to wake again - tragic.

So, when I flicked open last weeks Athletics Weekly (yep I do a bit of running as well cycling) I was pretty shocked to find out how little testing for heart defects actually goes on in sport - I suppose its something that you would never think of. Italy are ahead of the curve when it comes to testing with it being compulsory in many sports. We do have screening available in the UK at a cost (which is normally subsidised) of a paltry £35. It seems that it is a simple procedure that can take place at at mobile CRY screening clinic http://www.c-r-y.org.uk/general_information_on_cardiac_s.htm, a bit like the old Give Blood vans that trawl the country I suspect.

With people like Steve Redgrave, Beefy Botham, the BBC's Ben Brown and comedian David Walliams getting behind it, it will also gain higher profile in the future and will hopefully become part and parcel of our routine maintenance of health. Funny, many of us happily book dentist appointments to have 'healthy teeth and gums' yet very few of us think about going to get the old ticker checked out.

So, if you regularly get your BPM anywhere near its threshold (be it on the commute home or the local time trial) do yourself a favour and get that old blood pumper checked, even if you aren't entitled to a free one, its the cost of a pair of tyres!

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I completely agree with this sentiment.

Prior to taking up cycling I played other sport (specifically hockey) at a reasonable level. Injury forced me to stop that and i took up cycling more seriously, deciding (as so many do...) to try my hand at the Étape.

The trade for my doctor signing the entry form was a fairly straightforward medical, the ultimate result of which shows I have a defect in my heart which requires check-ups no greater than 12 months apart. Now, I'm lucky: so long as nothing changes, I'm allowed to exercise as hard as I like (I set a new max-HR at the track recently).

However, there are plenty of people out there - and some of them are very young - who don't know they may have an issue with their heart. We cyclists are often obsessed with our heart rates, but we also need to make sure that we - and the young that we encourage in the sport - are also healthy enough to undertake oftebn very strenuous exercise.

posted by ourmaninthenorth [93 posts]
23rd February 2009 - 15:40

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