Scarce data exist on blood pressure (BP) and secondary effects in young athletes. Hence, we aimed to study prevalence of high BP (≥140/90 mmHg) and the association to arterial compliance, left ventricle mass and left atrium volume.
A Norwegian preparticipation cardiac screening of male professional football players enrolled 493 white European, 47 matched controls, 49 black and 53 players of other ethnicity. BP was measured as a mean of two measurements. Height and weight were self-reported, and body surface area (BSA) was calculated. The echocardiographic parameters were indexed to BSA. Heart rates (HRs) by electrocardiography and pulse pressure (PP) were considered as surrogates for sympathetic activity. Arterial compliance was calculated as stroke volumeBSA/PP.
The players mean age was 25 years (18–38) and mean BP 122/69 ± 11/8 mmHg. There were no significant differences in prevalence of hypertension between all players, 39 (7%), and controls, four (9%), or between white, 32 (7%), and black, five (10%), players. There was a significant positive linear relationship between BP and left ventricle massBSA, left atrium volumeBSA, stroke volumeBSA, HR and PP, and negative relationship to arterial complianceBSA.
Although the prevalence of high BP in professional football players was low, our data indicate a novel association between elevated BP and reduced arterial compliance, increased left ventricle mass and left atrium volume even in young athletes. This emphasizes closer focus on BP measurements and standardized follow-up after preparticipation screening of athletes.