In February 2019, during a practice session, an abnormally high heart rate was detected in a 19-year-old female volleyball athlete – her coach spotted the event using Polar Team Pro live feed HR tracking. As reported in a recent case study by Current Sports Medicine Report (Phifer et al.), this real-life event validated the effectiveness of consumer grade heart rate monitors.
The event recorded a heart rate of 234 bpm in the subject (123% of age-predicted maximum HR) for approximately 5 minutes. Further assessment later revealed that the athlete never experienced any abnormal sensations, other than her stating “occasionally feeling that my HR should not be that high after stopping a drill or exercise.”
The athlete was referred to a cardiologist and, eventually, an electrophysiologist for assessment. A 48-h Holter monitor was prescribed and captured one episode during recording. The episode identified via the HR monitor data was consistent with Holter monitor findings. When comparing the initiation time from the HR monitor to the Holter monitor, both were identified as occurring at the same time point ± 1 min.
Authors concluded that although heart rate monitors may not be as specific or diagnostically capable as either an ECG or Holter monitor, the analytics can be used to identify recorded data indicative of an arrhythmia while the individual may have remained otherwise asymptomatic. Additionally, even if the probability of the athlete being diagnosed with some sort of actual arrhythmia is small, the benefits of detecting elevated HR levels via heart rate monitor outputs far outweigh the potential risks, or possible loss of life if not identified and pursued.
Phifer, Neal C. MS; Brown, Dale D. PhD, FACSM; Laurson, Kelly R. PhD; Dennis, Karen K. PhD; Munn, John MS; Johnson, Leah MS; Smith, Megan MS; Swenson, Ryan MS
Incidental Cardiac Arrhythmia Identification with Consumer Grade Heart Rate Monitors: A Case Study
Current Sports Medicine Reports: MAY 2021 – VOLUME 20 – ISSUE 5 – P 255-258
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