photo copyright Nick Rosenthal
Cyclingnews.com reported yesterday that Italian six-day specialist Marco Villa has retired at 39 years of age due to an unspecified arrythmia:
"Noted Six Day rider Marco Villa was forced to retire early when he learned that he had an irregular heart rhythm, UIV.dk reported this week. The 39-year-old Italian was intending to retire next February, but learned of his condition after a medical control for Olympic candidates earlier this year.
Villa said, "Originally it was my plan to stop after next winter, with the Six Days in Cremona in February 2009 as my definitively last race. But as a member of the group of Olympic candidates in Italy, I was called in for the normal health-control. That control showed some irregularities in my heart rhythm.
"They couldn't exactly tell me what was wrong, but the doctor's advice was that I should refrain from racing for at least a few months," he explained. "At my age it is not so easy to take a longer break, so I decided to stop now instead of taking any risks. I have had a wonderful career and I have a lot of good memories, and I want to let it be like that."
In March of 2008 I began treatment for a potentially fatal heart arrhythmia whose cause was unknown. I was fit and healthy, having spent a good part of my adult life as an elite cyclist, much of it racing in Europe.
After 5 years of fence-sitting on the part of my doctors, I have been given a diagnosis of ARVD/C (Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia / Cardiomyopathy). I lack the known genetic markers for the disease as well as some of the structural changes that accompany ARVD/C, and my condition has shown no indication of being progressive (yet).
There is a growing population of current and former endurance athletes who end up with acquired arrhythmias, and a diagnosis of ARVD/C. But by placing these athletes in the ARVD/C patient population, we are potentially ignoring the very real likelihood of an acquired condition, similar, but different, from ARVD/C.
This blog is written as a resource for athletes with acquired arrhythmias, as well as anyone about to undergo endo or epi-cardial ablation, or the implantation of a ICD. It is also written to help generate some critical mass of interest in support of further research into acquired arrhythmias in endurance athletes and others. Feel free to contact me through the comments page if you have any questions or wish to make a written contribution to this blog.