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BACKGROUND: Caring for athletes with cardiac disease requires an approach that caters to the specific needs of the athlete. CASE SUMMARY: A 27-year-old professional rugby player was admitted with decompensated heart failure and atrial fibrillation (AF). Transthoracic echocardiogram showed features in keeping with a dilated cardiomyopathy with severe left ventricular (LV) systolic impairment. He made good progress on evidence-based heart failure medication and his LV systolic function returned to normal. He failed to maintain sinus rhythm with cardioversion and remained in persistent AF. He then suffered a transient ischaemic attack despite appropriate anticoagulation. At 1-year follow-up, he was asymptomatic and against medical advice continued to play competitive rugby whilst taking rivaroxaban. He subsequently underwent implantation with a percutaneous left atrial appendage occlusion device, allowing him to discontinue anticoagulation, reduce his bleeding risk and resume his career, whilst simultaneously lowering the thromboembolic risk. DISCUSSION: Counselling should include different management options aimed at minimizing the risks to athletes if they to return to competitive sports. Left atrial appendage occlusion devices are a suitable AF-related stroke prevention strategy in athletes competing in full-contact sports.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Heart J Case Rep

Publication Date





1 - 5


Atrial fibrillation, Case report, Dilated cardiomyopathy, Left atrial appendage occlusion, Sports cardiology, Stroke, Watchman device