Does long-lasting sports practice increase the risk of atrial fibrillation in healthy middle-aged men? Weak suggestions, no objective evidence

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BackgroundSome authors have suggested that sports activity can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation in healthy middle-aged men. Therefore, sport activity, although it prevents coronary artery disease, might be the cause of a potentially dangerous arrhythmia.MethodsTo verify this assumption, we critically analyzed the current literature including original articles, reviews and meta-analyses.Results and conclusionsAll published articles showed several limitations. The data provided by published studies support the following conclusions: the incidence of atrial fibrillation in sporting middle-aged men is rare (<0.5% per year); a possible facilitating effect on atrial fibrillation is limited to vigorous endurance exercise, not to less vigorous sports; there are no convincing data to demonstrate that sport itself may be the cause of atrial fibrillation in healthy middle-aged men; and a facilitating effect of long-lasting sport cannot be excluded in middle-aged individuals with cardiovascular disorders. Nevertheless, the beneficial effects of exercise should offset this supposed risk, which, albeit increased, remains low.

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