Q&A: HEART OF THE MATTER
Q: I was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome during a heath check and would like to know if that would in any way affect me while riding my bike, as it has something to do with the heart?
Simon Lee, email
A: Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a significant heart condition characterised by an additional abnormal conduction pathway through the heart muscle. This can result in dangerous fast heart rhythms (supra-ventricular tachyarrhythmias), which may then precipitate ventricular fibrillation — a terminal and fatal heart rhythm. WPW is a recognised cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes.
Affected people may experience with rapid palpitations, fainting feelings or actual faints. The condition can be diagnosed by characteristic changes on an ECG. Exercise ECGs are used to predict the risk of fatal heart rhythms.
Treatment for athletes normally consists of radiofrequency ablation (destruction) of the abnormal conduction pathway, with drugs tending to be less effective. Therefore you must see your GP and arrange a cardiological referral and refrain from exercising until you have been thoroughly investigated and treated.
(Sport and exercise doctor, first-category road racer, and club doctor to Westcombe Park Rugby Club and Millwall Football Club)