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Pediatric Cardiologist Charles Berul Contributes to Important Study of Sports Safety and Implantable Defibrillators

May 24, 2013

Washington, DC—Charles I. Berul, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Children’s National Medical Center, has contributed to an important new study about the safety of vigorous or competitive sports for athletes with implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). The study was published in the May 21 edition of the American Heart Association’s flagship journal, Circulation.

ICDs deliver an electrical pulse or shock to help control life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia. Leading medical societies have recommended that patients with these devices limit activity to sports such as bowling or golf, but the risks of more vigorous sports had not been studied previously.

Dr. Berul was part of an international team that followed 372 athletes with ICDs, ranging from 10 to 60 years old, for an average of two and a half years. Study participants included youth and high school or college athletes and others who engaged in sports such as running, basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, skiing, and snowboarding.

The study found that many athletes with ICDs can engage in vigorous and competitive sports without physical injury or without the device failing to stop the arrhythmia. While a number of athletes received shocks from their ICD over the course of the study, no injuries or deaths occurred that were related to the shocks or the underlying abnormal heart rhythms, and the rate of those shocks was similar to those reported in earlier studies for less active patients with ICDs.

“This study gives doctors important new data for making decisions with their patients about participating in a wider range of active and competitive sports,” said Dr. Berul. “It means many children and teens with ICDs can safely take part in the active sports they love and that their parents can rest easier knowing these activities have been studied and found safe for many patients.”

Dr. Berul is an acknowledged expert in pediatric cardiac electrophysiology, which diagnoses and treats arrhythmias. Before he joined Children’s National in 2009, he was director of the Pacemaker Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. He is the 2013-2014 President of the Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology Society. Dr. Berul is a fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology, the Society for Pediatric Research, and the American Heart Association’s Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young. He has more than 150 publications in pediatric cardiology to his name and is frequently an invited speaker nationally and internationally.

Contact: Emily Hartman or Paula Darte, 202-476-4500

About Children's National Health System

Children’s National Health System, based in Washington, D.C., has served the nation’s children since 1870. Children’s National is one of the nation’s Top 5 pediatric hospitals and, for a second straight year, is ranked No. 1 in newborn care, as well as ranked in all specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report. It has been designated two times as a Magnet® hospital, a designation given to hospitals that demonstrate the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery. This pediatric academic health system offers expert care through a convenient, community-based primary care network and specialty outpatient centers in the D.C. Metropolitan area, including the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia. Home to the Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children’s National is the seventh-highest NIH-funded pediatric institution in the nation. Children’s National is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as a strong voice for children through advocacy at the local, regional and national levels. 

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