Leo Köpp is an athlete with full commitment. He lives in a sports boarding school, trains every day
and brings his body to its limits. That of course has consequences.
By Ragnar Sieradzinski

In the heart of an athlete, the risk of cardiac arrhythmia increases.
If the alarm goes off at 5 o’clock in the morning, it is already clear that it is time to go out shortly after.

Go on a 15 kilometers run every morning. Then off to university.Only for training to begin again in the afternoon. In the evening they go dancing or they simply meet up with friends.
For Leo, this life is just right. He is fully absorbed in it; Getting up early is no problem for him. But this permanent physical strain could have serious consequences. After all, if you do too much sport long
term, eventually your heart will expand.
In extreme cases, so-called athlete hearts can become twice as big as normal hearts. Then there is he risk that the coronary vessels will be too small to still provide the heart with sufficient oxygen.

A few years ago doctors found out, that the heart can scar and eventually get out of sync. Therefor the risk of cardiac arrhythmia increases for athletes.
In an our interview with Leo Köpp he stated that he can only lead his extreme lifestyle for a limited time: “The saying ‘sport little more than murder’ is unfortunately true for me.” His doctors had
already warned him that he would have to shut down at some point, so that he wouldn’t permanently damage his heart.


Is sport really dangerous?


According to the German Heart Foundation, several hundred people in Germany die from sudden cardiac death during sports every year. But that was by no means a reason not to do sports. After all, whoever practices endurance sports in moderation and is regularly examined by the doctor, ends up leading a much healthier and safer life than people who do not practice sports.
Not all competitive athletes are affected by an enlarged heart: The change always depends heavily on the duration, intensity and type of training. Sportsmen’s hearts most often develop during typical endurance training. Strength athletes are usually less affected.
How dangerous is it actually to have an athlete’s heart, is disputed among medical professionals. An enlarged heart itself is thus considered to be a functional adaptation and has no pathological
significance per se. In addition, the effect was observed much less frequently than assumed.

A health risk often arises only in combination with hereditary predisposition or existing diseases.

The athlete’s heart is getting smaller again


An enlarged heart does not accompany the athlete his entire life: If sports are not dominating the athlete’s life anymore, his heart will shrink back to its normal size. So, if you do proper medical examinations, you should be able to minimize the risk of sudden cardiac death as much as possible.
However, it is important, according to the German Heart Foundation, to avoid any unrealistic ambitions and not to over-strain yourself. The classic final tip is to avoid sport during or directly after an infection. If there is a feeling of pressure in the sport, pain, and tightness in the chest, this should
be clarified with a doctor immediately.