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Man U targets young hearts

Manchester United’s Academy players are being put through their paces while having their hearts monitored, as part of a research project to identify the effects of exercise on young hearts.

The research partnership will investigate the fitness levels of 300 children whilst exercising. Participants will include 100 children born with heart conditions, 100 healthy children and adolescents, and 100 elite junior athletes from the Manchester United Academy.

The study, supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will help to identify heart performance of the different groups under stress, to help with better identification of abnormalities.  Researchers will monitor heart function at rest and during maximum exercise while simultaneously assessing exercise capacity and performance as well as lung function in a time efficient manner in a single setting.

The first stage of the research collaboration early this year will test 40 children with congenital heart disease, 40 normal healthy children and 20 elite athletes, with the 300 cross group tests and findings will be completed by 2016. Testing on elite youth athletes is already underway at Manchester United’s Academy.

Screen shot 2015-02-25 at 17.25.02The overall aim of the project is to more precisely identify the safe levels of exercise for children with congenital heart disease, as well as to clearly define the positive benefits that regular exercise delivers to normal healthy children over time. Additionally, data from the young athletes will be used to improve screening protocols for cardiac abnormalities in young athletes, say the authors.

Dr Dave Perry, Academy Doctor at Manchester United, said: “Our players at the Academy have been offered an amazing opportunity to receive a most comprehensive screening of their cardiovascular (CVS) health…The players are enthused that their information will help to contribute to furthering knowledge about the health of the nation.”

“The screening process will help to provide reassurance to the player’s parents that their son is capable of withstanding the demands that training at an elite level requires. Parents frequently ask me with regard to the risks of sudden cardiac death (SCD) while exercising and the current pathway will hopefully provide some reassurance…It is hoped that the information from the fitness assessment will help to develop and fine tune the club’s Sports Science Department training programmes,” Dr Perry continued.

Project leader Dr Guido Pieles (University of Bristol) said: “This is a unique study, using the latest technology to image the heart while it’s ‘at work’ during exercise. We hope it will enable us to improve scanning protocols and applications, lead to a more precise and earlier diagnosis of heart function abnormalities and better monitoring of treatment progress in our young patients with congenital heart disease. Our research will also help evaluate the benefits of exercise for the heart in obesity and other conditions caused by increasing sedentary lifestyles and poor diet.”

“Not only will it allow us to identify effective diagnosis and treatment pathways for children with congenital heart disease but it will also provide new insights in the search for the right screening tools for heart abnormalities in youth athletes. Significant research progress has been made over the last decade in the adult athlete population to prevent exercise related sudden cardiac death (SCD), but validated screening protocols for childhood and adolescent athletes are still missing,” Dr Pieles added.

Dr Graham Stuart, Senior Consultant and Sports Cardiologist at the Congenital Heart Unit in Bristol, said: “Exercise is a critically important cardiovascular function which has been neglected in recent years, we hope this research will lead to the development of innovative diagnostic and treatment strategies in young people with heart disease.“

The research project has been partly funded by two local Bristol charities – the David Telling Trust, and Above and Beyond. It is being led by the Bristol Heart Institute at the University of Bristol, Bristol’s Clinical Research and Imaging Centre (CRICBristol), the University of Exeter‘s Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre, and Manchester United, with ultrasound scanners supplied by Toshiba Medical Systems.

Published on: February 25, 2015

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  • ArrhythmiaAlliance
  • Stars
  • Anticoagulation Europe
  • Atrial Fibrillation Association

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