Mario Lemieux is a retired professional ice hockey player whose storied career included multiple Stanley Cups, an Olympic Gold Medal for Canada, and the Hart Trophy for most valuable player in the National Hockey League on 3 occasions.
Lemieux’s story is also remarkable for his health problems. Most seriously, he battled (and returned to play after treatment for) Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but he also dealt with chronic back pain spinal disc herniation, and a variety of other musculoskeletal issues.
Interestingly, it was atrial fibrillation that may have led to his retirement from playing. He recognized his first episode of an irregular heart beat during a golf tournament in the summer of 2005, but it wasn’t until his symptoms were severe–and led to hospitalization–in late 2005 that the diagnosis was established. He was treated initially with medications and underwent a successful ablation procedure in February, 2006.
His story with atrial fibrillation is well chronicled in a video, “Faces of Atrial Fibrillation.”
We often associate atrial fibrillation with endurance athletes, in whom there is a several-fold increased risk for this condition. But atrial fibrillation can occur in any athlete and this shouldn’t be surprising given the condition’s incidence in the general population. Lemieux is a good example. Even in the absence of any other form of heart disease, the symptoms can sometimes be bothersome or even debilitating and require medical evaluation and treatment.