John Taylor died suddenly and unexpectedly. The post mortem revealed that he had died from
cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart.
We cannot be sure if the condition was genetic, or viral.
The doctors said that nothing could have been done to save John when his heart suddenly failed, but
if the condition had been detected in advance then something might have been done to prolong
The John Taylor foundation for young athletes
was set up with the aims of providing awareness of the
condition and to help put screening of athletes into place.
The following notes on cardiomyopathy by Dr. Phil Wallace are reproduced by kind permission of the Fellrunner magazine.
- What is cardiomyopathy?
- Cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle disease that can affect males and females of any ethnic origin. At the present time
over 200,000 people in the UK are believed to have the condition. Although it is incurable, it can be treated with
medication, pacing devices and surgery where appropriate.
There are three main types of cardiomyopathy:-
In cardiomyopathy the muscle of the heart is abnormal in the absence of an apparent cause.
Excessive thickening of the heart muscle may occur (hypertrophy literally means “to thicken”). Heart muscle may thicken in
any case in a normal individual as a normal physiological response to prolonged athletic training - the so-called
“athlete’s heart”. The structure and function of such hearts is absoluteley normal; intense training in the absence of
underlying heart disease and/or other medical conditions such as viral illnesses will not pose a threat to health.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy
Unfortunately, sudden death does occur in young, fit adults from time to time and a percentage of these will have
hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The cause is not yet known. In the majority of cases the condition is inherited, in others
there is either no evidence of inheritance or there is insufficient information about the individual's family to assess
- How does hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affect the heart?
- The walls of the heart are made of specialised muscle known as myocardium. It is this part of the heart which is
abnormal in cardiomyopathy. Every heartbeat in a normal heart results from an electrical signal starting at the top and
passing down through the heart - the contraction of the heart follows the same course. The abnormality of the heart muscle
in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can sometimes
interfere with this normal electrical activity. In abnormal segments of the heart the electrical signal may become unstable as
it crosses areas of scarring and disarrayed cells. This in turn can lead to disorganised electrical impulses that generate
fast or erratic heart rhythms. Some of these rhythms can be life-threatening.
- When does hypertrophic cardiomyopathy develop?
- Rarely, it is present at birth. However, hypertrophy more commonly develops in association with growth and is usually
apparent in the late teens and early twenties. Children and adolescents with the condition are usually identified when
family screening is performed after an adult in the family is found to be affected. Of these adults 50% will have
experienced symptoms; in the remainder the diagnosis is made during family screening or following the detection of a
murmur or an abnormality on routine electrocardiography/echocardiography.
- What symptoms does hypertrophic cardiomyopathy cause?
- There is no particular symptom or complaint which is unique to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The reason for the onset
of symptoms is often not clear, although they may occur at any stage in a person’s life even though the condition may have
been present for some time.
Symptoms may include:-
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may be suspected because of symptoms, a murmur or an abnormal ECG. An individual may present
any of the symptoms described above but, because such symptoms could be caused by a large number of other conditions,
further tests are necessary.
- Inappropriate shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Palpitations (awareness of the heart beating irregularly or very fast).
- Light-headedness and blackouts.
- What is the outcome for affected persons?
- The severity of symptoms and the risk of complications vary greatly between patients. It should be empthasised that
many people never have any serious problems related to this condition. Each person, however, must be carefully assessed
and advised by a cardiologist.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is not caused by athletic training.
Some useful WWW Links
The Cardiomyopathy Association
The British Heart Foundation
CRY - Cardiac Risk in the Young