Return-to-Play for Athletes With Long QT Syndrome or Genetic Heart Diseases Predisposing to Sudden Death

Kathryn E. Tobert, J. Martijn Bos, Ramin Garmany, Michael J. Ackerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Within the last 5 years, cardiac society guidelines have begun to acknowledge shared decision making (SDM) for the athlete with sudden cardiac death-predisposing genetic heart diseases (GHDs), such as long QT syndrome (LQTS), and the possibility for that athlete's return to play. Previously, international guidelines embraced a de facto disqualification for all such athletes including athletes with solely a positive genetic test in Europe. OBJECTIVES: This study sought to examine the prevalence and outcomes of athletes with sudden cardiac death-predisposing GHDs, particularly LQTS, after their return to play. METHODS: A retrospective review of the electronic medical record was performed on all athletes with GHD, with a primary analysis for those with LQTS, who were evaluated, risk stratified, and treated in Mayo Clinic's Windland Smith Rice Genetic Heart Rhythm Clinic by a single genetic cardiologist between July 1, 2000, and July 31, 2020. RESULTS: There were 672 athletes with GHD overall including 494 athletes with LQTS (231 female athletes [46.8%]; mean age at diagnosis 14.8 ± 10.5 years; mean follow-up 4.2 ± 4.8 years) who were given return-to-play approval. Overall, 79 of 494 athletes with LQTS (16.0%) were symptomatic before diagnosis, and 58 (11.7%) had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. In 2,056 combined years of follow-up, there was no GHD-sports associated mortality. Instead, 29 patients (5.9%) had ≥1 nonlethal, LQTS-associated breakthrough cardiac event. Of those, 15 (3.0%) were athletes at the time of the breakthrough cardiac event, with 3 (0.6%) experiencing a sports-related breakthrough cardiac event, and 12 (2.4%) a non-sports-related event. Overall, the event rate was 1.16 nonlethal events per 100 athlete-years of follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: This 20-year single center experience challenges the status quo of disqualification for all athletes with LQTS and provides additional observational evidence, albeit from a single center, in support of the more contemporary SDM approaches to this complex issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)594-604
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 10 2021


  • RTP
  • athlete
  • genetic heart disease
  • long QT syndrome
  • return to play
  • shared decision making
  • sudden cardiac death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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