Vigorous Athletic Activity Is Safe With ICDs

Vigorous Athletic Activity Is Safe With ICDs

Yale researchers report ICD Sports Safety Registry results. The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation was acknowledged in the published report for its assistance with dissemination of information about the study to sudden cardiac arrest survivors. 

NEW HAVEN, CT--There has long been concern that people with implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) should not participate in any kind of strenuous sports activity for fear that their devices could fail. (ICDs are small devices that deliver a jolt of electricity to the hearts of patients when it detects an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia.) But a new Yale study finds that many athletes with ICDs can engage in vigorous and competitive sports without physical injury or failure to stop cardiac arrhythmia, despite ICD shocks that may occur to the heart during athletic activities.

While current consensus statements recommend that individuals with ICDs refrain from sports, the safety of sports for people with ICDs has been unknown. To determine the safety of sports for people with ICDs, the ICD Sports Safety Registry identified people with ICDs who were participating in sports and followed them prospectively for up to four years. Initial results were recently published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

The Yale researchers studied 372 athletes with ICDs between the ages of 10 and 60 who were participating in organized or high-risk sports. The largest groups were people with the Long QT Syndrome and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. People with other forms of cardiomyopathies and other electrical abnormalities and those with a history of heart attack, were also included. Running, basketball, and soccer were the most common sports among study participants.

Over a follow-up period lasting between 21 and 46 months, there were no occurrences of death, resuscitated arrest, arrhythmia, or shock-related injury during sports participation. When athletes did experience shocks during competitions, practice, or at rest--even for potentially life-threatening heart rhythms--the ICD terminated all episodes and restored normal heartbeat. Shocks were not uncommon--there were 49 shocks in 37 participants (10% of the study population) during sports, 39 shocks in 29 participants (8%) during other physical activity, and 33 shocks in 24 participants (6%) which occurred at rest. 

“This study will provide a basis for more informed physician and patient decision-making for athletes with ICDs who wish to participate in strenuous sports activities,” said lead author Dr. Rachel Lampert, associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

As discussed in detail in the "discussion" section of the published paper, these results do not imply that it’s safe for every person with an ICD to engage in any sport. These results do suggest, however, that many athletes can participate safely, and that the decision to return to play after an ICD should be made together between a patient and his or her doctor based on that person's individual situation and current recommendations. 

The study was supported by grants from Boston Scientific, Medtronic, and St. Jude Medical.

How to Participate in Ongoing Study

The study is ongoing and is looking at longer-term outcomes. A phone interview is done at the time of enrollment in the registry, and then every six months. The interview consists of questions regarding the individual’s medical history and details about the sports he or she is playing. Since the interviews are done by phone, there are no geographic limitations to participation. All information is kept strictly confidential. For information, please contact ICDSports [dot] Registry [at] yale [dot] edu  or 866-207-9813. Kindly mention that you received this notice from the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

SOURCE: Yale University

Mission & Vision

The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

SCA Newsletter

Sign Up with the SCA Foundation News in order to stay informed! (* required field)

Contact Us

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation would like to hear from you! If you have questions or comments — Contact Us!


Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation
7500 Brooktree Road
Wexford, PA 15090

Copyright © 2019 Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Web Design & Development, & Web Hosting By FastWebEngine