Dana Vollmer is an American swimmer and 2-time Olympian. At the most recent London Olympic Games in 2012, Vollmer won an individual gold medal in the 100 meter butterfly, setting a new world record, as well as gold medals as a member of the winning teams in the 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay and 4 x 100 meter medley relay (also in world record time).
Arrhythmia problems as a teenager led to evaluation which uncovered the diagnosis of congenital long QT syndrome (LQTS) which I recently reviewed in a previous blog post. Although LQTS is sometimes a cause of exercise-related sudden cardiac death (SCD), Vollmer chose to continue her swimming career without being treated with implantation of an internal cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Her story is well chronicled in an article last summer in the New York Times’ Well Blog.
It’s particularly noteworthy that Vollmer would continue to train only when an automated external defibrillator (AED) was immediately available. Her mother even kept an AED with her in the stands as she watched her daughter win her first Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games!
With better understanding of the genetics of LQTS it may be possible to better predict which athletes are at greatest risk of SCD and tailor treatment appropriately.