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Black Athletes' Hearts May Differ From Those of Whites
Date:6/2/2008

Abnormal electrical patterns more common in black football players, but they aren't necessarily dangerous, experts say

MONDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- Black football players are twice as likely as whites to have abnormal electrocardiograms (ECGs), a new study finds.

But that doesn't mean they are at greater risk of heart disease, experts add.

The study of almost 2,000 athletes, done at the National Football League Invitational Camp from 2000 to 2005, found abnormal ECG patterns in 30 percent of black players and 13 percent of whites, noted a report in the June 10 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

But "abnormal" doesn't necessarily mean "unhealthy," said Dr. Barry J. Maron, director of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, a member of the research team.

"The criteria we have always used for normality are based on data from white people, and it turns out that black and white people are not identical in this regard," Maron said.

And that unusual pattern of the ECG, which records the electrical waves that cause the heart muscle to pump, need not be a barrier to a long sports career, said Dr. Abraham Friedman, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, who has served as a cardiology advisor at marathon races and other events. Friedman noted that Wilt Chamberlain, the all-time National Basketball Association star, has such a pattern.

"Black athletes' ECGs may be more abnormal than white athletes ECGs, but when you put them together with a full evaluation, these changes may not speak [to] disease," Friedman said.

The NFL study was started and led by Dr. Anthony Magalski of the Mid-America Heart Institute, team physician for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs.

"There has been for many years the idea that there are racial differences in the expression of the ECG in
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