Variability in interpretation of the electrocardiogram in athletes: Another limitation in pre‐competitive screening

H. Dores, J. Ferreira Santos, P. Dinis, F. Moscoso Costa, L. Mendes, J. Monge, A. Freitas, P. de Araújo Gonçalves, N. Cardim, M. Mendes

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Assessment of the electrocardiogram (ECG) in athletes remains controversial, with lack of standardization and difficulty in applying specific criteria in its interpretation. The purpose of this study was to assess variability in the interpretation of the ECG in athletes. Methods Twenty ECGs of competitive athletes were assessed by cardiologists and cardiology residents, 11 of them normal or with isolated physiological changes and nine pathological. Each ECG was classified as normal/physiological or pathological, with or without the use of specific interpretation criteria. Results The study presents responses from 58 physicians, 42 (72.4%) of them cardiologists. Sixteen (27.6%) physicians reported that they regularly assessed athletes and 32 (55.2%) did not use specific ECG interpretation criteria, of which the Seattle criteria were the most commonly used (n=13). Each physician interpreted 15±2 ECGs correctly, corresponding to 74% of the total number of ECGs (variation: 45%‐100%). Interpretation of pathological ECGs was correct in 68% (variation: 22%‐100%) and of normal/physiological in 79% (variation: 55%‐100%). There was no significant difference in interpretation between cardiologists and residents (74±10% vs. 75±10%; p=0.724) or between those who regularly assessed athletes and those who did not (77±12% vs. 73±9%; p=0.286), but there was a trend for a higher rate of correct interpretation using specific criteria (77±10% vs. 72±10%; p=0.092). The reproducibility of the study was excellent (intraclass correlation coefficient=0.972; p
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-449
Number of pages7
JournalRevista Portuguesa de Cardiologia
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Athletes
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Interpretation
  • Variability
  • athlete
  • cardiologist
  • cardiology
  • clinical article
  • correlation coefficient
  • electrocardiogram
  • female
  • human
  • male
  • reproducibility
  • resident
  • screening


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