“I’m athletic but I’m not an athlete”


Many of our patients tell us that they are athletic, not athletes. How do we decide who’s an athlete and who’s not?

The American College of Cardiology recently released the proceedings from a meeting on sports and exercise cardiology that took place in October 2012.  The document states that there is no agreement on how to define an athlete!

The dictionary definition generally describes someone skilled in sports without providing objective criteria to identify an athlete.  The medical community does not have a definition of its own, but in a medical context, the term athlete is usually reserved for someone who regularly competes against others or someone who participates in organized sports activities.  As you can imagine, this includes a wide range of skills and fitness levels.

Many people also exercise at a very intense level without ever competing in any formal or organized event.  For such individuals, the goal may be to push themselves and improve their own personal performance, but not necessarily to compete against an opponent.  Should these women and men be excluded from the definition of an athlete?

The lack of consensus definition—reflecting the great diversity within the world of sports and exercise—can be a problem in scientific studies of athletes, because different studies may investigate athletes with different kinds of abilities.  It then becomes more difficult to generalize the findings obtained from one set of subjects and apply them to another.

From our standpoint, we have no problem being very inclusive in the use of the term.  Anyone who embraces a healthy lifestyle and is physically active is an athlete!

Of course, when we evaluate you, we carefully take into account your current and past history of exercise activities to calibrate our expectations about your cardiac findings and interpret correctly your test results.

So get out there and celebrate your status as an athlete!  But please do it safely, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones, and get screened now!