Knowledge of how the heart adapts to exercise and disease to be expanded by investment in research scholars and cardiac investigation techniques
The aim of the Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership, a team of leading UK academics and medical institutions, is to advance the detection of serious cardiac disease. A new round of investment announced by Canon Medical Systems UK to appoint additional research scholars and expand echocardiography ultrasound and cardiac MRI investigation techniques will push its quest forward.
In the last year, the research team, comprising of experts from the University of Bristol, Bristol Heart Institute, the Children’s Health & Exercise Research Centre/University of Exeter (CHERC), and the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH) at University College London (UCL), has shaped international discussion on cardiac adaption in paediatric athletes, and exercise recommendations in children and adults with congenital heart disease. This has been through the publication of scientific papers1, guidelines and participation in global conferences.
New studies are ongoing to quantitively assess the cardiac function during exercise of highly trained sports stars of the future. With Canon Medical UK’s support, the Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership has been able to generate one of the world’s largest datasets on the cardiovascular profile of young football players from the world’s leading football clubs and academies. Early data was presented to the 2021 International Olympic Committee World Conference on Prevention of Injury & Illness in Sport, while other research is currently under peer review with several leading journals.
“By understanding how the heart works in the highly trained athlete, we are able to apply these findings to those with congenital heart disease, with the aim of being able to detect potentially serious adverse outcomes earlier and promoting a healthy lifestyle to those with underlying heart disease,” states Dr Nathan Riding, Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health and Canon Medical UK funded scholar. “Congenital heart disease affects approximately 1% of all live births but as surgeries are improved, and prognosis gets better, the number of children transitioning into adolescence and adulthood is increasing. By encouraging exercise adherence, our aim is to improve quality of life and life expectancy.”
Dr. Riding continues, “One hour of exercise per day is the recommended amount of activity time for a child without heart disease, yet just 23% of boys and 20% of girls aged 5 to 15 meet these targets. Children with congenital heart conditions are also failing to meet these activity guidelines, further impacted by a lack of formal exercise rehabilitation programmes which would be beneficial to them. At the opposite end of the spectrum, child athletes, especially those in sporting academies, may now be undertaking up to 16 hours per week of training, yet with unknown consequences on the heart. Our research is important for so many young people, from so many walks of life.”
Mark Hitchman, Managing Director of Canon Medical Systems UK states, “Unlocking knowledge from the body through research is essential to evolve our understanding of how to improve mainstream health and wellbeing. Our increased investment in sports cardiology will not only benefit the sporting community, but also wider healthcare. We will be able to fine-tune our diagnostic imaging applications and health IT for cardiology and reshape procedures and protocols that can help improve people’s long-term outcomes.”
To further the early identification of pre-existing cardiac conditions, the Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership and Canon Medical are also continuing the roll out of the world’s first mobile cardiac laboratory. This is providing cardiovascular screening for athletes and sports people. In partnership with the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health at UCL, where the programme is led by Profs. Guido Pieles and Mathew Wilson, the mobile lab is able to look into heart health using the latest medical imaging and analysis tools to identify pre-existing cardiac conditions that may predispose an athlete to sudden cardiac death.
The Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership is led by Professor Guido Pieles, the team cardiologist for Manchester United, Prof Graham Stuart, a Football Association expert consultant cardiologist, and Prof Craig Williams, director of CHERC. The research centres at Bristol, Exeter and ISEH London are using state of the art echocardiographic equipment by Canon Medical Systems.
Picture caption 1: (Left to right) Dr Lynsey Forsythe, Research Fellow; Nurul Amir, PhD Student; Tim Palarm, Regional Manager – Ultrasound Sales at Canon Medical Systems UK; Curtis Wadey, PhD Student; Dr Dan Dorobantu, PhD student & Cardiologist; and Professor Craig Williams, Director of CHERC.
Picture caption 2: Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership perform a Cardiopulmonary exercise test in combination with echocardiography.