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People With Heart Devices Can Exercise and Play Sports, New Study Reports

Update Date: May 24, 2013 01:06 PM EDT
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People with heart zapping devices, which are surgically implanted, have been advised to avoid rigorous physical activity, such as sports. Despite this warning, several young people who have received defibrillators continue to participate in sports. According to a new study, the researchers concluded that defibrillators continue to protect people despite increased physical activity. Based from these findings, young athletes who have this heart device are no longer as limited from sports as before. Although the researchers remind people with heart devices to consult with their doctors, the findings revealed just how effective defibrillators are for people who want to participate in sports and other physical activities.

Heart defibrillators work by detecting irregular heart beats that could be potentially life threatening. Once an irregular heartbeat is found, the device sends a shock to normalize the rhythm and protect the heart from failing. Over 100,000 defibrillators are implanted per year within the United States, and although the majority of people receiving them tend to be seniors, more and more young adults have had them implanted as well due to underlying heart conditions. In this study, the researchers looked at 372 people who were a part of the heart defibrillator registry created nearly two and a half years ago by Yale University heart specialist, Dr. Rachel Lampert.

From this sample set, which included high school and college athletes, and young adults that participate in community-based sport teams and other physical activities, such as running, the researchers found that 77 people needed a shock. 10 percent of these shocks occurred during sports, eight percent occurred while performing other activities and six percent of them happened when the person was in a resting state. About two-thirds of the group that received shocks returned to their respective sports or physical activity.

"Despite the fact that people got shocked, they didn't have anything dangerous happen to them: The device worked," Lampert said. The researchers reported that no one died, needed resuscitation, or had a shock-related injury.

Although the findings were positive, the sample set was relatively small. The researchers remind people with defibrillators to remember to consult with their doctors, especially if they participate in multiple sports that might place more stress on the heart.

The study was published in Circulation

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