The New York Times recently ran a story concerning a study conducted in Britain on the heart health of a group of older, elite athletes. All of the athletes recruited for the study had at one time been members of a national or Olympic team in distance running or rowing. Others were members of the 100 Marathon Club, whose members have successfully completed at least 100 marathons (26.2 miles).
The researchers used only athletes who had continued to train and compete throughout their adult lives. Twelve members of the study group were over 50. Another 20 over-50 men were recruited; these men had never been elite athletes in endurance sports but all were healthy. They were recruited for comparison purposes.
The researchers found that half of the older, elite athletes had symptoms of muscle scarring in their hearts. This finding tracked a 2008 German study of older marathon runners that found signs of fibrosis in the hearts of these runners more frequently than in a group of less active older men.
None of the athletes in the current study had any history of heart problems in their past. The authors of the study go on to discuss the potential link between lifelong heavy exercise and an actual deterioration of the heart muscles.
The Times points out that more studies are needed. Still it is an interesting link that the British researchers have reported on. If a person who exercises regularly over his or her adult life is in fact doing damage to the heart then what is a person to do?
The United States Sports Academy offers courses in sports medicine and training leading towards degrees in these areas of specialization. For more information go to www.ussa.edu.