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atheletes and thickened heart wall

  A friend's son, 17 years old, and an outstanding athelete, complained about shortness of breath with extreme short exertion. He was first felt to have exercise induced asthma, but now after a series of tests including stress tests and echocardiograms was told that he had a thickened heart wall. During all the stress tests, the symptoms could not be induced. He has about one to two episodes per week of an irregular heart beat. The only known heart disease in his family is the death of his grandfather in his 60's of a MI. currently, he has been told to stop playing basketball and other sports. The question is, would cardiomyopathy present in this way and could the thickening in the heart wall be due to the extremely high intensity of his exercise program? Could you recommend cardiologists with expertise in atheletes who could be consulted? Thank you.
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Avatar universal


Dear Mary
The fact that he experiences shortness of breath with exercise, and that this is a new symptom, argues that he should not play competitive sports, regardless of what the cause is. Competitive athletes can get a certain degree of heart muscle thickening just from extreme levels of training; this should not cause any symptoms. The thickened heart muscle could be a manifestation of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, one of the leading causes of sports-related deaths in young athletes. If you wanted further evaluation, large, urban medical centers (in cities with professional sports teams) would be a good place to start. Our specialist in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is Dr. Harry Lever. You could call the number below for an appointment.
I hope this has been useful. Feel free to write back with further questions. Good luck.
Information provided here is of a general nature.  Specific diagnoses and treatments can only be made by your doctor.  If you would like to be seen at the Cleveland Clinic, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE for an appointment with a cardiologist at Desk F15.

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