Wenckebach second-degree AV block in top-ranking athletes: an old problem revisited

Paolo Zeppilli, Riccardo Fenici, M Sassara, M Pirrami, G. Caselli

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivistapeer review


The occurrence of Wenckebach second-degree (Mobitz I) A-V block in apparently normal persons still provides a puzzle for the cardiologist, as the benign nature of this event has been recently questioned. This problem becomes more intriguing when Wenckebach A-V block is encountered in asymptomatic top-ranking athletes, because of medico-legal implications. We report 10 cases of highly-trained athletes, including three with mitral valve prolapse (MVP) features, with a spontaneous or induced Wenckebach second-degree A-V block. Previous ECGs of six subjects, dating from a maximum of 6 years to a minimum of 18 months, were available. Deterioration of A-V conduction has never been documented and all six cases have remained asymptomatic for the whole follow-up period. Athletes have been submitted to a protocol study consisting of ECG recording at rest, during, and after vagal and sympathetic reflex maneuvers, drug administration (isoproterenol and atropine), submaximal and maximal exercise. Nine subjects have been considered to have "normal" responses of the A-V node to provocative tests, since conduction disturbances were improved or normalized by reflex sympathetic stimulations and were completely normalized by autonomic drug administration and exercise. One athlete showed "abnormal" responses to tests. In order to give a conclusive prognostic and medico-legal assessment, we advised him to submit to an invasive electrophysiological investigation. Wenckebach second-degree A-V block in athletes may be a more common finding than so far described, especially when a systematic search is made. In our opinion, this event can still be considered a vagally-induced benign feature of athlete's heart, provided that an immediate improvement of A-V conduction is obtained in response to reflex sympathetic maneuvers, and that a complete normalization after sympathomimetic and vagolytic drug administration and physical exercise is observed. The clinical histories of our athletes and the observed complete disappearance of conduction disturbances after detraining, strongly support this opinion. Wenckebach second-degree A-V block in asymptomatic athletes with MVP features probably does not affect the prognosis if similar favorable responses to the aforesaid tests are observed.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)281-294
Numero di pagine14
RivistaAmerican Heart Journal
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 1980


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