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Sports Medicine Moment: Cardiac Conditions – Coronary Artery Anomalies

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Sports Medicine Moment: Cardiac Conditions – Coronary Artery Anomalies

Written by: Tristen Robinson

Tristen Robinson, M.S., ATC, LAT is a BUZZ Gear Up Blogger and an instructor at Andrew Jackson High School, for the sports medicine magnet program. Checkout the program’s Facebook page at Andrew Jackson High School Sports Medicine.


As we finish out our theme of common heart conditions related to athletes, we discuss coronary artery anomalies (CAA). Not as common as say… an ankle sprain, however, when talking about the heart, and life or death, this is one condition that is a cause, but IT’S cause is undetermined. Confusing a little? Let me explain.

CAA is defined by the Heart Institute as a defect in one or more of the coronary arteries of the heart. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from the heart and to the body. It has not been determined what causes the abnormalities. CAA is the general term for a variety of defects (e.g. abnormal size or shape). The reason this is pertinent to athletes is because it is congenital (at birth) and strenuous physical activities increase the risk for sudden cardiac death.

Signs and symptoms of CAA are subtle if noticeable at all. In some cases, an individual with CAA will experience symptoms during physical activity. These symptoms may include but are not limited to fainting during strenuous exercise, chest pain at rest or during exercise, or shortness of breath at rest or during exercise. If symptoms are not present, the only way to determine if some has CAA is through an Echocardiogram, MRI of the heart, or other medical imaging tests.

Many heart conditions that affect athletes and the physically active do not present with signs or symptoms until it is an emergency situation. Most if not all of these heart conditions would need to be determined using expensive tests (e.g. EKG, echocardiogram, MRI, etc.). That is why it is important to know your body and if possible, place yourself or your child in situations with optimal survival. This would include wearing proper protective equipment, knowing your history as well as educating yourself and those you participate with about how to handle an emergency cardiac situation appropriately. As with any emergency treatment of the heart, immediate activation of emergency medical services as well as AED and performing of CPR are essential to increase survival chances.


This has been your sports medicine moment…