April 24, 2023

Relationship Between Caffeine Consumption and Young Athletes’ Comorbidities, Exercise-Related Symptoms, and Baseline Electrocardiogram

J Farber et al, 2023. Relationship Between Caffeine Consumption and Young Athletes’ Comorbidities, Exercise-Related Symptoms, and Baseline Electrocardiogram, Sports Health.

Background: Caffeine consumption causes diverse physiologic effects that can affect athletes both positively and negatively. There is a lack of research investigating the long-term effects of caffeine intake on exercise and on overall cardiovascular health in young athletes.

Hypothesis: Certain characteristics such as age, body mass index (BMI), race, and medical diagnoses are associated with increased caffeine use, and there is a relationship between caffeine consumption and symptoms during exercise and cardiovascular abnormalities in young athletes.

Study design: Cross-sectional study.

Level of evidence: Level 4.

Methods: This study utilized the HeartBytes National Youth Cardiac Registry to collect data related to demographics, caffeine use, and physical examination and electrocardiogram (ECG) findings of 7425 12- to 20-year-olds (60.6% male, 39.4% female) who attended a Simon’s Heart cardiac screening event between 2014 and 2021. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression models were used for analysis.

Results: Persons who consumed caffeine were more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.43; CI, 1.15-1.76]; P < 0.01) and more likely to have a BMI ≥30 kg/m2 (aOR, 1.69; CI, 1.27-2.25]; P < 0.01) compared with nondrinkers. After controlling for age, gender, race, and BMI, there were no significant differences in symptoms during exercise (aOR, 1.27; CI, 0.97-1.66; P = 0.08) or abnormal ECG findings (OR, 0.93; CI, 0.66-1.31; P = 0.70) between those who consume caffeine and those who do not.

Conclusion: Caffeine consumption was associated with increased BMI and increased likelihood of having ADHD; however, caffeine use overall was not associated with increased risk of symptoms during exercise or ECG abnormalities.

Clinical relevance: Whereas caffeine consumption overall did not increase risk of exercise-related symptoms, soda drinkers were at higher risk for symptoms during exercise, and coffee drinkers were at higher risk of syncope with exercise. Prospective studies with longitudinal follow-up and more specific outcomes data is the next step in qualifying the impact of caffeine on young athletes.

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