The hidden danger of hockey

February 04, 2002

Hockey players are often told to "leave it all out on the ice" but a new study by Sanita Atwal and colleagues suggests that recreational players may be exercising too intensely and triggering dangerous cardiac responses.

Atwal and colleagues studied cardiac responses in 113 men over age 35 playing recreational hockey. After baseline cardiac risk factors were assessed, the subjects underwent holter electrocardiographic monitoring before, during and after at least 1 hockey game. The authors found that the maximum heart rate exceeded the target rate (calculated as 55% to 85% of the age-predicted maximum heart rate) for all subjects. The mean period that the heart rate exceeded 85% of the heart-rate maximum was 30 minutes. The authors also found that in 70.1% of the cases, heart-rate recovery was slow.

In a related commentary, Murray Mittleman cautions against warning off middle-aged shinny players. Instead, he recommends that these individuals be encouraged to exercise regularly throughout the year, since that represents the best defence against a host of cardiac risk factors -- including the small risk of an acute cardiovascular event during a hockey game.
p. 303 Cardiovascular effects of strenuous exercise in adult recreational hockey: the Hockey Heart Study -- S. Atwal et al

p. 331 The double-edged blade of recreational hockey -- M.A. Mittleman

Contacts: Dr. Sanita Atwal, Edmonton; tel. 780 973-4011 x2059, email:

Dr. Murray Mittleman, Institute for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston; tel. 617 632-7653

Canadian Medical Association Journal

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