Twenty male veteran endurance runners and 20 controls underwent resting, exercise, and ambulatory electrocardiography. Four athletes and three controls satisfied voltage criteria for left ventricular hypertrophy. The PR interval was longer in the athletes and they had longer mean (SD) treadmill exercise times (19 (4) v 16 (2) min) than the controls. Four athletes but no controls had greater than 2 mm downsloping ST segment depression during exercise. During 48 hour ambulatory electrocardiography the athletes had a consistently lower heart rate but maintained a circadian variation. Profound bradycardia (less than 35 beats/min) occurred in eight athletes but only one control. Eight athletes and two controls had asystolic pauses ranging from 1.8 to 15 seconds. Six athletes had first degree heart block, four had Mobitz II second degree block, and three had complete heart block. Most conduction abnormalities occurred at night and resolved during exercise. Ventricular ectopic activity was not significantly different between the groups. Thus heart block patterns and profound bradycardia are more frequent in older athletes than their youthful counterparts.
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