Over 500,000 men and 70,000 women in Canada regularly play
recreational ice hockey, as do many of their American counterparts.
Playing hockey on roller skates is another popular recreational
sport. These activities subject participants to intense aerobic
activity, though, which in older adults has been linked to
a higher risk for heart attacks.
The authors of a recent study in the Canadian Medical
Association Journal decided to investigate a link between
playing recreational hockey and suffering from heart attacks
in middle-aged men, after they had treated multiple patients
who had suffered a heart attack following play. The authors
monitored the heart rates of 113 recreational ice hockey players
over 35 years old, using electrocardiographic monitoring devices
before, during, and after hockey games. Data were used to
determine heart rates and presence of arrhythmias (irregular
For every player, maximum heart rate during play was higher
than target exercise heart rate; in three-quarters of players,
heart rates were in excess of predicted heart rate. In 70%
of cases, heart recovery rate was "poor" following play, and
arrhythmias were found in two players.
The elevated exercise level during recreational hockey and
other vigorous sports may cause a dangerously high cardiac
response in middle-aged or older adults. Excessive aerobic
activity in the players in this study led to heart rates higher
than target and maximum rates, and poor recovery rates. If
you are over 35 years old and not in excellent physical condition,
hold off on participating in highly demanding sports like
ice hockey until you're in better shape.
Atwal S, Porter J, MacDonald P. Cardiovascular effects of
strenuous exercise in adult recreational hockey: The Hockey
Heart Study. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2002:166(3),
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