AF Association
13,222 members16,095 posts

Commonwealth Games Athlete

Hi all

I have often read through many of the posts on this site and found them most informative and helpful. Coming from an athletics background I thought the attached article would be of interest and shows how this condition can be a condition and often is that of the super fit and elite sports world....

I myself came out of "The Heath University Hospital. Cardiff" this afternoon after having an ablation under the care of Dr P O'Callaghan I will write shortly about the truly professional and caring way Dr O'Callaghan treated me during my stay

14 Replies

I too am having an ablation by Dr Peter O Callaghan sometime in the next 4 months so will be really interested in your news. I have also found him to be very caring in his dealings with me so far. I hope you have a good recovery and make sure you rest. People on here always stress how important that is. X


Do try to rest plenty and let your body recover slowly.

Regarding athletes it is known that it is the training which in many cases brings on the AF in this group of people since it is thought that the left atria becomes enlarged during endurance training making the pathways likely to become disrupted. Similar traits have been found amongst fast jet military pilots where presumably fighting G forces puts strain on the heart.



Yep I use to be an amature the gym 2 hours at a time morning and evening every week and doing 6 hours speed walking a week amongst other stuff I could drop 3 stone in 3 months no problem if needed to I had no idea that level of fitness for me was having any effect on my heart other than for the better...seems like I was wrong ! I now believe the human body was never designed for that much punishment!

1 like

Everything in moderation is my motto. I started lifting 5lb potato bags fifty times and after a couple of weeks I put a potato in each bag. lol Trouble is people get hooked on the endorphines that exercise produce and can't live without the fix. My fix was adrenaline from the buzz I got rushing around running a motor race team. For twenty years I lived on 4 hours a night sleep during the season but usually collapsed around October when we finished for the year and had two weeks being ill. Then it was skiing after Christmas and then back prepping the cars for the next season- -happy days but knees are shot and a few other bits don't work any more. Not that I would change a thing.



I used to do cross country running , cycling, horse riding, swimming and long distance walks. The house and garden were neat and I worked full time. I was bit of a wonder woman when I think back. Now the wonder is where that energy went! We action people have worn out hearts out!

Hope your ablation is a success and that you are soon 100% fit. As Bob says take it easy for a few weeks to let your heart heal and don't go undoing the good work you've had done. Best wishes.


I used to race dinghies, some open meetings would involve being out on the water doing 2 or 3 races back to back for 4-5 hours. The longest ever was nearly 11 hours whilst we waited for wind shifts to settle. In order to be fit enough to do that I used to have to train in the gym 2-3 times a week. Again worked full-time, Mum to 2 boys who were also very active and kept the house. Prior to that I played squash and badminton.

So collectively looks like we were a very active lot!

Just a comment about the article either it was ill reported or is there a new treatment? A 'valve implanted' to cure AF??

Hope your ablation is successful, again take care to rest plenty after, I did too much too soon despite the warnings from Bob and co. Best wishes


Thank you for posting that link - I definitely think that a slow heart rate from endurance training or because you are taking beta blockers (as I was for hypertension) increases your chances of contracting AFib.

Best of luck with your recovery from your ablation. I look forward to reading about it - I live in Cardiff and, if I ever do have an ablation, I would guess it would be Dr O'Callaghan who performs it.


Diolch yn fawr (I'm thinking you're Welsh) :)

I'm reading about everyone's achievements and I'm mightily impressed. If I ever get to the stage where I can lift a potato in each hand I will be celebrating :D It does seem ironic that super-healthy and active folks like yourself and the others who have replied should be in the same boat as someone whose fitness relies on Extreme Gardening... I hope that the ablation sorts everything out for you! We're in North Wales, and I wonder sometimes, if I were to need an ablation (or be offered one) whether I'd be sent to Cardiff or Liverpool...



I suppose I was a bit the same as you guys. Long distance swimming, walking and horse riding juggled with full time teaching job and family. It does make me wonder. Maybe the adrenaline required to do these things, is counter productive in some way. On the other it could have been my other previous excesses that did it. E.g. red wine drinking! X


I'm in this group too. I started running about 7 years ago and have run 4 marathons. I wouldn't, however, call myself an endurance athlete. My AF was largely exercise induced. We do have to remember though that for every one of us 'athletes' who have developed AF there are thousands who haven't and I certainly wouldn't want anyone to think that a sedentary life is preferable. I wouldn't change my albeit few years of running for anything.


Hi All

Firstly many thanks for all the kind wishes, (Eatsalottie... diolch yn fawr iawn Dw'in siarad iaith y nefoedd)

I will certainly be taking on all the advice that Bob and everyone else has given me about resting, in fact I have just found a huge box of unseen DVD's and books I have never had a chance to read because of a busy life (I am a sports development officer/Swimming coach) The sky remote is set to sky sports so off I go...My poor wife, the ablation was nothing compared to what she is going to do to me if I don't hand over the remote it will be a return visit to the Heath in Cardiff this time to A and E.

Well ! what most of you will want to know is about my experience of this procedure... My GP (Who is Sports orientated) was brilliant she referred me to the local cardiologist who saw me within the month and we tried various amounts of sotalol which worked on a limited basis but nothing permanent my advice from the cardiologist was to get an ablation done and he knew just the right person (Dr Peter O'Callaghan) in Cardiff, the story my cardiologist told me was Dr O'Callaghan was the electrician and he was the plumber he had been in on a few of these ablation procedures but to stand there for hours threading wires through somebody was not what he considered to be his destiny in life so he leaves it to the experts.

From there I was placed in the hands of a highly profession team at the heath hospital in Cardff, my first experience of the team was Rachael (Arrhythmia) Nurse a nicer more knowledgeable person you wouldn't wish to meet she went through everything and explained my journey from start to finish along with the reassurance that anything I thought of after to give her a ring and she would answer or sort out.

My TOE was carried out by Professor Frazer an exceptionally helpful and reassuring person that is exactly what you would visualize a professor to look like minus the bow tie I didn't have a sedative for this procedure although I was offered it I didn't want to feel groggy after and sleep all afternoon but it's a personal choice unless there is a medical reason, the only thing I found a little unpleasant was the spray they put on your throat could do with a bit more mint in it.

The ablation itself was carried out at the Heath hospital 2 days later I was met by Rachael the arrhythmia nurse and taken through the stages again, the other staff at the unit were exceptionally friendly the whole atmosphere in fact put you at your ease.

The ablation lab as they call it is best way described as " the bridge from the star ship enterprise" with many different people in there who are only too keen to tell you (if you wish) what everything is for and what they do etc I even had somebody in there from the company who makes the equipment to make sure it was working as it had been designed, he actually told me this technology is evolving so quickly what is new today will be out of date in the next few small thing to note because of all the technology in the lab the room has to be kept cold and every sensor or electrode that is put on you is very cold, the poor nurses and technicians freeze during the procedure but as it can last up to 5 hours it doesn't stop them having their dinner in the room they certainly don't have to worry about keeping things refrigerated.

The attention I got was second to none they continually monitor you and ask how you are feeling, Dr O'Callaghan uses conscious sedation, if you feel any discomfort whatsoever they tell you at the beginning to speak out and within seconds its sorted, I drifted in and out of the consciousness all afternoon with nothing but a warm comfortable feeling that you get with a lie in on a Sunday morning which couldn't be said for the poor nurses and technicians who had gone a lovely shade of blue by the time we had finished.

After the procedure which in my case lasted around 5 hours I had had everything ablated (PVI) I was taken to the ward where I was greeted by my wife and daughter along with the tea lady, a cup of tea and some sandwiches. I had to lie still for around 6 hours to make sure the area around the groin had completely stopped bleeding this probably was the most uncomfortable I had been all day with my back aching from having to stay in one place however, time passed quickly the full effect of the sedation had not worn off.

The groin area was not a problem very little scaring and the bruising was expected but minimal, there was one slight problem during the night nothing to do with my ablation I decided to get out of bed(3am) to go to the toilet...Not a problem.... but I accidentally in the dark pulled the plug out of a heart monitor and set off all the alarms on the ward waking up everyone so I as you can imagine was not flavour of the month.

I have experienced lots of unusual sensations from my heart but as this site, doctors etc tell you it is perfectly normal and you can actually go up to 3 months and beyond.

Before I left the hospital the following day Rachael sat me down and had an ECG she explained everything that was going on, what to expect and why. One after effect from this procedure I did have which I must mention is a bad headache.... nothing that isn't cured with a tablet but something to be informed about there are a few theories about this including the meds etc but I am sure a few people on this site will be able to shed more light on the issue its certainly nothing to break sweat about.

As I walked out of the hospital with my starbucks in my hand to meet my wife thinking about my experience I overheard a very old lady telling a rather grumpy young girl "Life is short laugh while you still have teeth" seemed quite poignant at the time.

I hope along with the many other people on this site I have helped to ease people's minds about this procedure it is complex but certainly in the hands of these highly trained professionals you have nothing to fear, please drop me a line if you have a specific question about my experience at the heath in Cardiff.

My late father picked up AF as a young man through rheumatic fever the medical people at that time hadn't even heard of it, he lived for 60 years of his life with this condition until he passed away at 82 years of age.

Well its off to the doctors for a sick note on Monday and back to my "Lord of the Rings triology" feet up and listen to my body I could get very use to this.


Thanks very much for that.


Thank you for writing such a detailed post. I feel really reassured now as you have answered many of the worries I had. I may return to plague you with questions as my ablation comes closer.x


For anyone interested, here are the ESC and AHA guidelines for people with arrhythmias participating in sport:

Heidbüchel, Panhuyzen-Goedkoop, Corrado, Hoffmann, Biffi, Delise, Blomstrom-Lundqvist, Vanhees, IvarHoff, Dorwarth, Pelliccia:

Recommendations for participation in leisure-time physical activity and competitive sports in patients with arrhythmias and potentially arrhythmogenic conditions Part I:

Supraventricular arrhythmias and pacemakers.

European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation 2006 13: 475

Zipes, Ackerman, Estes, Grant, Myerburg, Van Hare:

Task Force 7: Arrhythmias

36th Bethesda Conference

Eligibility Recommendations for Competitive Athletes With Cardiovascular Abnormalities

JACC Vol. 45, No. 8, 2005 April 19, 2005:1354–63

There's a discussion of the difference between these two documents here:

Pelliccia, Zipes, Maron:

Bethesda Conference #36 and the European Society of Cardiology Consensus Recommendations Revisited A Comparison of U.S. and European Criteria for Eligibility and Disqualification of Competitive Athletes With Cardiovascular Abnormalities.

Journal of the American College of Cardiology Vol. 52, No. 24, 2008


You may also like...