Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a heart condition in which there is an abnormal extra electrical pathway in the heart. It could show up as a benign pattern on an electrocardiogram or be associated with a potentially lethal heart rhythm which can occur suddenly without warning. Without a good cardiac workup, it becomes very difficult to predict whether a mild abnormality on ECG will remain benign or become a lethal lightning bolt-like arrhythmia striking someone down in a sudden fatal cardiac event.
As a board certified cardiologist not at all involved in his care, it’s hard to say for sure what symptoms if any Mr. Hardy might have been suffering. If there is any indication of lightheadedness, dizziness, or passing out spells, that may occur without warning, it would be prudent to perform a full cardiac workup before any finalized decisions are made on whether to return to the octagon or retire.
Despite a lack of symptoms, certain high-risk professions such as high intensity athletic competitors might warrant an invasive electrical heart study. As an example, if a short circuit Wolf-Parkinson-White rhythm is found on an invasive workup which could be effectively ablated and cured, he might be able to be eventually cleared to return back to fighting.
According to some sports cardiology exercise guidelines, mandatory ablation of symptomatic Wolff-Parkinson-White disease and a period of rest for several months post procedure with return of good athletic functioning and pre-sports cardiac clearance stress testing, might help better risk stratify him for consideration on returning to high-intensity competition.
Further details and his medical condition will ultimately dictate the best course of action.
Before allowing him back to high-intensity athletic play, he would need to have an exercise stress test and further cardiovascular screening. I would have a low threshold for referral to an electrical cardiologist well-versed in dealing with the source of rhythm abnormalities.
And if effectively treated, would it be okay for Mr. Hardy to return to the octagon? Quite probably, but it depends on stress testing results and any post ablation symptom monitoring. But knowing full well that this is a high risk sport, I would probably say yes.
David A. Friedman, MD, FACC, FACP
Attending Cardiologist, Cardiology Consultants of North Shore-LIJ Health System
Chief, Heart Failure Services at North Shore-LIJ’s Plainview Hospital
Assistant Professor of Cardiology
Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine
Office: (516) 938-3000
Fax: (516) 938-3239