JOURNAL ARTICLE

Benign clinical significance of J-wave pattern (early repolarization) in highly trained athletes

Filippo M Quattrini, Antonio Pelliccia, Riccardo Assorgi, Fernando M DiPaolo, Maria Rosaria Squeo, Franco Culasso, Vincenzo Castelli, Mark S Link, Barry J Maron
Heart Rhythm: the Official Journal of the Heart Rhythm Society 2014, 11 (11): 1974-82
25092400

BACKGROUND: J wave/QRS slurring (early repolarization) on 12-lead ECG has been associated with increased risk for ventricular fibrillation in the absence of cardiovascular (CV) disease.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence and clinical significance of J wave/QRS slurring in a large population of competitive athletes.

METHODS: Seven hundred four athletes (436 males [62%], age 25 ± 5 years) free of CV disease who had engaged in 30 different sports were examined. Serial clinical, ECG, and echocardiographic evaluations were available over 1 to 18 years of follow-up (mean 6 ± 4 years).

RESULTS: J wave was found in 102 athletes (14%) and was associated with QRS slurring in 32 (4%). It was found most commonly in anterior, lateral, and inferior leads (n = 73 [72%]), occasionally in lateral leads (n = 26 [25%]), and rarely in inferior leads (n = 3 [3%]). Most of 102 athletes (n = 86 [84%]) also showed ST-segment elevation. J wave/QRS slurring was associated with other training-related ECG changes (ie, increased R/S-wave voltages in 76%) and left ventricular (LV) morphologic remodeling (LV mass 199 ± 48 g vs 188 ± 56 g, P <.05). During follow-up, no athlete with J wave experienced cardiac event or ventricular tachyarrhythmias, or developed structural CV disease.

CONCLUSION: In athletes, early repolarization pattern usually is associated with other ECG changes, such as increased QRS voltages and ST-segment elevation, as well as LV remodeling, suggesting that it likely represents another benign expression of the physiologic athlete's heart. J wave (early repolarization) is common in highly trained athletes and does not convey risk for adverse cardiac events, including sudden death or tachyarrhythmias.

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