Study Of International ICD Sports Safety Registry Shows Restriction Of All Competitive Sports For Those With Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) May Not Be Necessary

Late-Breaking Clinical Trial Results Announced at Heart Rhythm 2012

May 10, 2012

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Ken Demith
Heart Rhythm Society

BOSTON, May 10, 2012 – A study of more than 350 competitive athletes with implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) from around the world showed for the first time that sports may be safer for this group than has been thought. There were no occurrences of death or injury due to arrhythmia or shock during sports in this group. Additionally, only ten percent of the athletes received a shock during competition or practice and of those, most continued to play, as reported today at Heart Rhythm 2012, the Heart Rhythm Society’s 33rd Annual Scientific Sessions. Click here to view this late breaking clinical trial abstract.

These results are based on a prospective study, the international ICD Sports Safety Registry. This study is the first of its kind to offer tangible evidence about the risks of sports activity in athletes with ICDs, empowering physicians to evaluate sports participation on a case-by-case basis. Currently, consensus statements recommend restriction of competitive sports for all athletes with an ICD because of the unknown risks. 

“These data suggest that the blanket statement that all vigorous competitive sports be restricted for patients with ICDs may not be necessary. Yet, it by no means suggests that all ICD patients should be playing sports,” said Rachel Lampert, MD, FHRS, lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. “We believe this continues to reinforce the importance of informed and thoughtful discussions between physicians and patients, and provides new information that will help guide the final decision on whether it is safe for an individual to participate in a competitive sport with an ICD.”

The purpose of an ICD is to convert all episodes of ventricular fibrillation (VF) or ventricular tachycardia (VT) through a defibrillation shock to the heart. Because the effectiveness of the ICD during the stressful conditions of intense sports was previously unknown, sports have not been recommended.  But, the true risks have also not been known.

The registry followed 372 athletes from around the world for more than 2.5 years to evaluate the primary endpoints of 1) death or resuscitated arrest or 2) injury during sports due to arrhythmic symptoms and/or shock.  Secondary results that were monitored included system malfunction and incidence of ventricular arrhythmias (VA) requiring multiple shocks for termination. 

No primary endpoints occurred and of the secondary results, only ten percent of the athletes were shocked during competition or practice. Lead malfunction rates were similar to those reported previously for ICD patients leading the authors to conclude that “these data do not support competitive sports restriction for all athletes with ICDs.”

The median age for participants in the study was 33, with ages ranging from 10 to 60. The most common sports were running, basketball and soccer.  Athletes were recruited through physician sites and patient advocacy groups and all were already involved in competitive (n=328) or dangerous (n=44) sports.

Sessions details:

“Safety of Sports for Patients with ICDs: Results of a Prospective Multinational Registry” [Thursday, May 10, 2012, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., EDT Ballroom West]

Heart Rhythm 2012 is the most comprehensive educational program for heart rhythm professionals, featuring more than 250 educational sections and more than 130 innovative products and services.  The Heart Rhythm Society’s Annual Scientific Sessions have become the must-attend event of the year, allowing the exchange of new vital ideas and information among colleagues from every corner of the globe.

About the Heart Rhythm Society

The Heart Rhythm Society is the international leader in science, education, and advocacy for cardiac arrhythmia professionals and patients, and the primary information resource on heart rhythm disorders. Its mission is to improve the care of patients by promoting research, education, and optimal health care policies and standards. Incorporated in 1979 and based in Washington, DC, it has a membership of more than 6,000 heart rhythm professionals in more than 72 countries around the world. For more information, visit